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Volume 9 No 1 Spring 1988 

Grace Theological Journal 

Published Semiannually by 

Grace Theological Seminary 

200 Seminary Dr. 

Winona Lake, IN 46590 

John C. Whitcomb, Editor 

John J. Davis, Assistant Editor 

Homer A. Kent, Jr., Assistant Editor 

D. Brent Sandy, Managing Editor 

Donald L. Fowler, Book Review Editor 

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ISSN 0198-666X. Copyright © 1988 Grace Theological Seminary. All rights reserved. 



Volume 9 No 1 Spring 1988 


Proverbs 22:6a: Train Up a Child? 3 


The Validity of Human Language: A Vehicle for Divine 

Truth 21 


Literary Analysis and the Unity of Nahum 45 


Is Natural Theology Biblical? 59 


The Ascension Motif of 2 Corinthians 12 in Jewish, Chris- 
tian and Gnostic Texts 73 


Canon as Context: The Function of Sensus Plenior in 

Evangelical Hermeneutics 105 


The Classification of Optatives: A Statistical Study .... 129 


Book Reviews (see inside back cover) 141 


Jack Barentsen 

536 1/2 West Mishawaka Avenue, Mishawaka. IN 46545 

James L. Boyer 

Grace Theological Seminary, Winona Lake, IN 46590 

Ted Hildebrandt 

Grace College, Winona Lake, IN 46590 

Douglas A. Oss 

Valley Forge Christian College, Phoenixville, PA 19460 

Richard D. Patterson 

Liberty University, Lynchburg, VA 24506 

Stephen R. Spencer 

Grand Rapids Baptist Seminary, Grand Rapids, MI 49505 

Michael E. Travers 

Liberty University, Lynchburg, VA 24506 

Brad H. Young 

5328 East 36th Street, Tulsa, OK 74135 

Grace Theological Journal 9.1(1 988) 3-19 

PROVERBS 22:6a: 

Ted Hildebrandt 

Careful consideration of lexical and contextual factors suggests 
that "train up a child in the way he should go " needs to be reexam- 
ined. The verb "to train" really refers to a bestowal of status and re- 
sponsibility. The noun translated "child" denotes the status of a 
late adolescent rather than a child. "In the way he should go" is 
best understood as "according to what is expected. " The original 
intent then of this verse addresses a late adolescent's entrance into his 
place in adult society. This should be done with celebration and 
encouragement — giving him respect, status and responsibilities com- 
mensurate with his position as a young adult. This reinterpr elation 
necessitates fresh application of the proverb beyond the concerns of 
childr earing. 

"T ra * n U P a cm ^ m tne wa y ne should go and when he is old, he 
JL will not depart from it" (Prov 22:6). This proverb has brought 
encouragement, hope, anxiety and guilt to countless parents who have 
faced the uncertainty and confusion of child-rearing. It has provided 
encouragement to those responsible parents who, after working to 
balance family, relationships and careers, find reassurance that all of 
their labors ultimately will not be in vain. This verse has also pro- 
vided rays of hope to those who, having reared their child in the best 
way they knew, have had their hearts broken as their child rebels and 
goes astray. They agonize under the pain that God recognized to be 
one of the deepest sorrows of human existence (Mt 23:37; Hos 11:1— 
2; Prov 10:1). To those parents this verse gives hope that when he is 
old the prodigal will return. Another group of young parents, sensi- 
tive to daily feelings of inadequacy, experiences intense anxiety over 
the possible long-term damage they see themselves doing to their 
child. If the child does go astray, this verse seems to point the finger 
of guilt at them. 


Assuming that Proverbs 22:6 is a proverb, and not a promise, 1 
the first question of interpretation must be: "What did this verse 
originally mean when it was recorded in the book of Proverbs?" 


"Train up" is an initial verbal imperative, found only five times 
in the Old Testament. The tension between how this word is used 
elsewhere in Scripture and the alleged pedagogical, semantic com- 
ponent found in the translation "train up" (KJV, NASB, RSV, NIV, 
TEV [teach]) has been passed over by many commentators. 

To Stimulate Desire 

Since there are so few uses of "?|30 m tne Old Testament, many 
have overemphasized etymology and ignored the cautions that Barr 
has so clearly articulated. With the recent psychological concentra- 
tion on needs, 4 there has been a renewed emphasis on the alleged 
etymological root of ^n, "^n (palate), 5 and on an Arabic cognate 
(hanakun: desire). The Arabic image is of a mother preparing date 
jam which is gently rubbed on the gums of a newborn baby, thereby 
enhancing the infant's appetite for and ability to digest succulent 
condiments. Yet to suggest that the assumed etymological root de- 
termines or shades the meaning of the word in Proverbs 22:6 is like 
saying that when one uses the word "cute" it is shaded by its early 

'W. Mouser, Walking in Wisdom (Downers Grove: Intervarsity, 1983) 13-14; 
J. Williams, Those Who Ponder Proverbs: Aphoristic Thinking and Biblical Literature 
(Sheffield: Almond, 1981); N. Barley, "A Structural Approach to the Proverb and 
Maxim with Special Reference to the Anglo-Saxon Corpus," Proverbium 20 (1972) 
737-50; "The Proverb' and Related Problems of Genre-Definition," Proverbium 23 
(1974) 880-84; and the classic work on the proverbial form and nature of the proverb, 
A. Taylor, The Proverb (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University, 1931). 

"A good example of the errors of putting application before interpretation is 
Proverbs 29:18, "Where there is no vision the people perish" (KJV). How this verse has 
been misused for "good causes"! Fortunately, most modern versions (NIV, TEV, LB, 
RSV) have changed this incorrect understanding. 

James Barr, Comparative Philology and the Text of the Old Testament (Oxford: 
Clarendon, 1968) 266-67. 

4 David Keller, "Child Discipline: A Scriptural View," The King's Business, 
(December 1970) 49, and J. A. Walter, Need: the New Religion (Downers Grove: Inter- 
Varsity, 1986). 

5 BDB (335) and KB (320) take ^]3n as denominative from the noun ^n (palate, 
gums, roof of the mouth). Cf. Gleason Archer, R. L. Harris, B. K. Waltke, eds., 
Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, vol. 1 (Chicago: Moody, 1980) 301. 

6 Both BDB (335) and KB (315) link it to an Arabic cognate hanaka referring to 
the rubbing of the palate (gums = hanakun) of a child with oil and dates before he 
begins to suck, thus making the material more digestible and palatable (cf. also TDOT, 
v. 19f.; Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, vol. 6 [Grand Rapids: Wm. B. 

hildebrandt: proverbs 22:6a: train up a child? 5 

Elizabethan root meaning of "bow legged." Thus, it cannot be as- 
sumed that etymology determines current meaning/ usage. One should 
be doubly leery about reading in a suggested etymology ["^n (palate) 
or hanakun (desire)] when none of the biblical usages has anything to 
do with such sensual, cuisinal nuances. 

Another way of establishing this oral-appetitive meaning for ^n 
is on the basis of the use of ""D (mouth) in the idiom "mouth of his 
way" (13"n)- This was possibly used for literary effect in Proverbs 
22:6. 7 Such an oral meaning fixation seems unlikely, however, in light 
of the apparent absence of such inferences elsewhere (Exod 34:27; 
Deut 17:10-11; etc.). 

To Train 

Most commentators accept, without discussion, the translation 
of "train up" as the meaning of the word }3n in Proverbs 22:6. 8 By 
"train up" is meant the careful nurturing, instructing and disciplining 
of the child in an attempt to inculcate a wise and moral character. 
Such training is frequently mentioned in Proverbs (Prov 13:24; 19:18; 
22:15; 23:13-14; 29:15, 17; cf. Heb 12:5f.). Consequently, this proverb 
is cited in support of a plethora of educational and developmental 
child-rearing philosophies, paradigms and programs. 

The importance of early child training cannot be over-emphasized, 
particularly given the destructiveness of the absent/ preoccupied-parent 

Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1973] 87). The nexus with Egyptian Execration text (2000 
B.C.), hnk.t, "tribute, offering," or the Neo-Punic, hnkt(?), "memorial tombstone," is 
doubtful, as Dommershausen observes (cf. Albright, "The Predeuteronomic Primeval," 
JBL [1939] 58). 

James Collins, "A Hermeneutical and Exegetical Examination of Proverbs 22:6" 
(M.Div. thesis, Grace Theological Seminary, 1983) 29. 

8 Toy, Proverbs in ICC, 415; McKane, Proverbs: A New Approach (Philadelphia: 
The Westminster Press, 1970) 564; Whybray, The Book of Proverbs, in the Cambridge 
Bible Commentary (Cambridge: University Press, 1972) 124; Bridges, A Commentary 
on Proverbs (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1846) 402-4; Charles Fritsch, 
Proverbs in the Interpreter's Bible (NY: Abingdon, 1955) 907; W. G. Plaut, Book of 
Proverbs (NY: Union of American Hebrew Congregations, 1961) 227-28; Edgar Jones, 
Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, in the Torch Bible Commentaries (London: SCM, 1961) 
183-84; Julius Greenstone, Proverbs with Commentary (Philadelphia: The Jewish Pub. 
Soc. of America, 1950) 234-35; T. T. Perowne, The Proverbs (Cambridge: University 
Press, 1916) 142; and Otto Zockler, The Proverbs of Solomon in Lange's Commentary 
(NY: Charles Scribner and Son, 1904) 192. Zockler illustrates the point with several 
proverbs ("What little Johnnie does not learn, John learns never" and "Just as the twig 
is bent the tree's inclined"). Similarly, modern experiments of Piaget ("The Mental 
Development of the Child" in Six Psychological Studies by Piaget, ed. O. Elkind [New 
York: Random, 1967]), categories of Erikson (Childhood and Society [New York: 
W. W. Norton] 247-74), and the work of others highlight the importance of early 
childhood training. Many affirm that 85% of the child's personality is formed by the 


syndrome that plagues American home life. However, until the origi- 
nal meaning of Proverbs 22:6 is explicated, we dare not jump to 
dynamic, family-focused, modern applications of the verse. 

It may be suggested that the discipline/ instruction view of }3n is 
confirmed by a lone use in Aramaic concerning training for fasting on 
the Day of Atonement. 9 Modern Hebrew uses synonyms like "JftV or 
English glosses like "education" and "apprentice/ pupil". In modern 
Hebrew, ^rn means "education." 11 One wonders, however, if such 
later developments are based on an assumed interpretation of this 
verse, which has therefore affected the consequent use of this verb in 
modern times. 12 This verb and its noun forms do not occur elsewhere 
in Scripture with this discipline/ instruction meaning. If instruction 
was the point, why were the more instructional and frequently-used 
wisdom verbs not employed (10^, "ID», 37QW, 1?T [Hi])? Or why 
were there not more generic verbs used (TTI3, rtj?V) with the usual 
wisdom nouns attached (e.g., righteousness, wisdom, knowledge, 

One further tendency should be resisted in developing the seman- 
tic components of this word. Every nuance of the word should not be 
imported into its use in a particular context. Reich, for example, 
collects several divergent meanings of ?pn (dedication, discipline [train 
up], desire) and develops each of them in light of early childhood 
training. Such a technique is to be avoided as a violation of valid 
semantic theory. 13 

To Dedicate I Initiate 

The four other occurrences of "train" (tpn) in the Old Testament 
are in contexts of dedicating or initiating the use of buildings. This 

time he is 6 years of age. Such findings, chaining early childhood to later life, are held 
to be supported by this biblical proverb (see e.g., Paul Meier, Christian Child-rearing 
and Personality Development [Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1977]). 

Marcus Jastrow, A Dictionary of the Tarqumim (NY: Pardis Publishing House, 

10 Even-Shoshan, Abraham. naVH p^OH (Jerusalem: Qiriyat Sepher) 800, R. Sivan 
and E. A. Levenston, The New Bantam- Megiddo Hebrew and English Dictionary (NY: 
Schoken, 1977)91. 

"S. C. Reif, "Dedicated to "pri," VT 22 (Oct 1972) 501. Cf. Sivan & Levenston, 
Megiddo Dictionary, 118. 

12 This is not ignoring the fact that modern meanings may be helpful in under- 
standing ancient words (vid. James Barr, Comparative Philology, 38-75, 223-37; W. 
Chomsky, Hebrew: The Eternal Language [Philadelphia: 1957] 206-30). Yet, it does 
make this writer a little reticent — fearing an anachronistic, semantic projection back 
into the text. 

13 William Reich, "Responsibility of Child Training: Proverbs 22:6"(M.Div. thesis, 
Grace Theological Seminary, 1971) 27, 35-41. 

hildebrandt: proverbs 22:6a: train up a child? 7 

dedication/ initiation is usually accompanied by great celebration. 
Deuteronomy 20:5 talks about the initiation of a new house as the 
reason for a man's not going off to war. The parallel references in 
1 Kings 8:63 and 2 Chronicles 7:5 are both in the context of the 
celebrations surrounding the dedication of the Solomonic temple. 
Reif follows Rankin when he observes that in Deuteronomy 20:5 the 
word should be understood as the "initial use of" rather than a 
formal dedication. Dedication is the moving of an object from the 
realm of the profane to the realm of the sacred. In ritual contexts, 
however, both dedication and initial use aspects are closely linked. 
Since the practice of dedicating houses is not found in the Old 
Testament or in the later Jewish religious traditions, the dedication 
interpretation seems less likely in Deuteronomy 20:5. The idea of 
"initiating the use of" is more consistent with the context. 15 

Reif carefully discerns the cultic use of "^n in 1 Kings 8:63 (2 Chr 
7:5). Here the cultic setting causes a coalescing of the idea of 
dedicating the sacred building with the idea of its initial use. While 
"make holy" (UHJ?) and "anoint" (n$ft) may be more frequently and 
exclusively used in dedication contexts, they may be sequentially 
related to the meaning of ^n (cf. 1 Kgs 8:63 and 8:64 where the inner 
court must be W7\? before it can be ^n). The LXX translation 
eyKcuvi^co — while etymologically stressing the idea of newness and 
initial use — has lexical glosses that favor the idea of dedication. 1 

This cultic initiation/ dedication use is affirmed through the eight 
uses of the noun form 7733 n which occur exclusively in cult object 
dedication celebrations (Num 7:10, 11, 84, 88; 2 Chr 7:9; Neh 12:27; 
Ps 30:l[title]). Again in Numbers 7, Reif carefully distinguishes that 
the "anointing" (nU7Q) and "consecrating/ dedicating" (unf?) come be- 
fore the "initial use" 0]3n) of the Mosaic altar (cf. Num 7:1, 10-1 1, 84, 
88). 18 Similarly, Psalm 30:1 is a song that celebrates the initial use of 
the temple rather than focusing on the dedication of the structure 
itself. It is interesting that the word for the feast of Hanukkah is 
derived from the same root and focuses on the Maccabean celebra- 
tion of the initial use/rededication of the second temple after its being 
profaned by Antiochus Epiphanes. 

14 Reif, "Dedicated to "pn" 495-501; O. S. Rankin, The Origins of the Festival of 
Hanukkah: The Jewish New- Age Festival (Edinburgh, 1930) 27-45, and Reif, "The 
Festival of Hanukkah," in The Labyrinth, ed. S. H. Hooke (London, 1935) 159-209. 
Also Rashi (M. Rosenbaum and A. M. Silbermann, Pentateuch . . . with Rashi's 
Commentary translated into English and Annotated [London, 1929]; Genesis, 57; Sefer 
HaShorashim [Berlin, 1847] 111). 

15 TDOT, vol. 5,20. 

16 Reif, "Dedicated to "pn", 497. 

17 BAGD, 214; LSJ, 469. Cf. Latin "dedicare." 

18 Reif, "Dedicated to "pn", 497ff. 


The same basic noun form is used four times in biblical Aramaic 
to describe the initial use/ dedication of the second temple (Ezra 6:16- 
17) and of Nebuchadnezzar's 90 foot image of gold (Dan 3:2-3). 
Jastrow also provides examples of the use of this word by later 
Jewish sources to describe the dedication of an altar. 

In summary, the root "^n is used as a verb four times other than 
in Proverbs 22:6. All four are in the context of the celebration of the 
initiation or dedication of a building (temple). The eight noun uses all 
have reference to the cultic initiation of material objects (altar/ tem- 
ple/ wall). The four uses in biblical Aramaic parallel this usage exactly 
(idol/ second temple). What is to be made of this data, which clearly 
does not favor the normal pedagogical reading of Proverbs 22:6 as 
"train up"? 

pn Analysis 

The relationship between wisdom and the cult has been shown 
not to be mutually exclusive. Nevertheless, importing cultic meaning 
("to dedicate") into a proverbial setting is problematic to those who 
are sensitive to wisdom as a literary genre. Several commentators 
have realized this problem yet have attempted to include the idea 
of dedication in their definition of training. 21 The vast majority of 
writers, however, virtually ignore the above data and simply attach 
the meaning "train up" to the Hebrew term ^n with no further 
comment about the semantic bifurcation. 

Barr 22 and others 23 have indicated the hazards of carelessly carry- 
ing over components of meaning from one context into another. All 
of the above usages of "^n have inanimate objects (altars, houses, 
temples, walls) as their object. When the word has an animate object, 
it should not be assumed that the meaning will necessarily be homo- 
geneous. For example, the meaning of the word "runs" will have a 
different set of semantic components depending on whether it is used 

l9 Jastrow, Dictionary, 483f. 

" For an excellent study on the relationship of wisdom and the cult, vid. Leo 
Perdue, Wisdom and the Cult (Missoula, MT: Scholars Press, 1977) 225-26. 

Derek Kidner, Proverbs (Downers Grove: Inter- Varsity Press, 1964) 147; Robert 
Alden, Proverbs (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983)160; Reich, "Responsibility 
of Child," 32-35. 

"Barr, The Semantics of Biblical Language, (London: Oxford University, 1961) 

" Moises Silva, Biblical Words and Their Meaning (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 
1983); John Lyons, Semantics (Cambridge: Cambridge University, 1977); Eugene Nida, 
Exploring Semantic Structures (Leiden: Brill, 1975); G. N. Leech, Semantics (Har- 
mondsworth, Eng.: Penguin, 1974); F. R. Palmer, Semantics (Cambridge: Cambridge 
University, 1981); and John Beekman and John Callow, Translating the Word of God 
(Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1974) 90-100. 

hildebrandt: proverbs 22:6a: train up a child? 9 

for something animate or inanimate: "the boy runs" or "the faucet 
runs". The question becomes: what does "^n mean when applied to 
people? Jastrow provides several examples in postbiblical Aramaic 
where the term is used of the high priest, who is inaugurated, and 
Isaac, who was initiated (^3n) into the covenant on the eighth day. 24 
In Genesis 14:14 there is a very important use of T[3n where Abraham 
rescues Lot by sending out his 318 "trained" (VD^n) men. It would be 
a mistake to think of these men as novices. Rather they seem to be 
sent out as men who were strong, experienced and already initiated 
into military affairs. It is interesting that the Arabic root proposed 
under "desire" also may be read "make experienced," which fits well 
the sense here. 25 

Similarly, in the Taanach letters (Akkadian documents dating 
from just before the Amarna age [15th century BC]), Albright has 
found a complaint from Amenophis of Egypt that Rewassa of 
Taanach, in the context of mustering troops for war, had not sent his 
"retainers" (ha-na-ku-u-ka) to greet Amenophis. Thus both in Genesis 
and in the Akkadian Taanach letters the root "^n, when applied to 
people, refers to one who is initiated and experienced, having duties 
commensurate with his status as a military cadet who has completed 
his training. What makes this example even more inviting is that later 
in the Genesis 14 passage these same military cadets (retainers/ squires) 
are called Dnw (14:24). 26 The connection of ^n with Dn»3 (young 
men) is significant because these are the same word roots used in 
Proverbs 22:6 which are usually translated "train up" and "child". 

Thus, while the term later acquired the meaning "to train" in a 
didactic sense (similar to loV), it is better to see this word as having 
specific reference to the inauguration process with the bestowal of 
status and responsibility as a consequence of having completed an 
initiation process. In short, the word "^n focuses not so much on the 
process of training as on the resultant responsibility and status of the 
one initiated. This meaning of 1^T\ in Proverbs 22:6 moves away from 
a strictly parental admonition for providing the child with good 
instruction, ^n will be returned to in order to show how this new 
initiation interpretation fits into Proverbs 22:6, after discussing the 
term translated "child" ("1273). 

24 Jastrow, Dictionary, 483f. 

25 TDOT, 20; BDB, 335; and Collins, 23. 

"Albright, "A Prince of Taanach in the Fifteenth Century B.C.," BASOR 94 
(April 1944) 24-25. Cf. CAD, H 6:76. Note also that Montgomery, in working on the 
name Enoch (hanok), concludes that if it comes from the same root (Gen 5:24), it 
means "initiated" as one who walked with God ("Some Hebrew Etymologies," JQR 25 
[1934-35] 261). Similarly, Albright calls him "retainer (of God)" (Albright, "Predeu- 
teronomic," 96). 



The second lexical problem that the interpreter faces in Proverbs 
22:6 is how to render the term "1373. Who was this "1373 that was to be 
initiated with celebration, status and responsibility? In this verse 1373 
is generally translated "child" (KJV, NIV, NASB, RSV, TEV, NEB, 
et al.) or "boy" (NAB). MacDonald, in a study based on an analysis 
of hundreds of Ugaritic and Hebrew usages, has demonstrated that 
the age-focused idea of "child" is insufficient for understanding who 
the "1373 was. 


Looking at the contexts in which the word "1373 is employed, three 
things immediately present themselves. First, the age span is so di- 
verse that age cannot be the primary focus of the word. It is used of 
infancy: for a child yet unborn (Judg 13:5-12); one just born (1 Sam 
4:21); an infant still unweaned (1 Sam 1:22); or a three month old 
baby (Exod 2:6). However, Joseph at 17 — already a man in that 
culture — is also called a "1373 (Gen 37:2). When he is 30 years old — 
surely beyond childhood — he is still called a 1373 (Gen 41:12, 46). 
Thus, MacDonald is correct when he states that the renderings "child, 
lad, young man, and servant" are "inadequate and produce a totally 
false impression of the person involved." 28 Second, the 1373 is fre- 
quently active in strictly adult activities (war [1 Sam 17:33, 42; Judg 
6:12, 8:20]; cultic priestly functions [Judg 18:3-6, 20]; special spy 
missions [Josh 6:22]; personal attendance on a patriarch, prophet, 
priest, king or son of a king [Gen 18:7; 2 Kgs 5:1-27; I Sam 1:22, 
24-25; 2 Sam 9:9; 2 Sam 13:17]; or supervision of the whole Solo- 
monic labor force [1 Kgs 11:28]). The term 1373 is often applied to 
one who is designated as an tt^S (man) (2 Sam 1:5, 10, 13). While he 
may be a young male, the point is not his age but his societal status 
and resulting responsibility. Third, there are numerous terms that 
focus on the age of a young male when age is the point ("TV;, }2, D^37, 
y?i37, p31\ «^D). 29 It is not merely with these terms that "1373 finds its 
semantic field. Rather, it is equally at home with terms like 1337 
(servant) or Ji?T (elder). 

An upper-class role and societal status are consistently ascribed to 
the "1373. MacDonald reports that in the historical books there are no 

" John McDonald, "The Status and Role of the Na'ar in Israelite Society," JNES 
35.3 (1976) 147-70. This article has been summarized briefly also as "The 'Naar' in 
Israelite Society," Bible and Spade (Winter 1977) 16-22. The results of this detailed and 
conclusive study have not yet been utilized for interpretive purposes. 

2s McDonald, "The Status and Role of the Na'ar in Israelite Society," 147. 

29 Ibid., 150. 

hildebrandt: proverbs 22:6a: train up a child? 1 1 

examples of a "1373 of lowly birth. 30 Thus, whether the "1373 is just an 
infant (like Moses [Exod 2:6], Samuel [1 Sam 1:22, 24-25], or Samson 
[Judg 13:5]) or an adolescent (like Jacob/ Esau [Gen 25:27], Joseph 
[Gen 37:2], or Solomon [1 Kgs 3:7]), high status is the point — not 
merely age. Similarly, the feminine rn373 also means a high-born 
young female, as can be seen by its usage in reference to Rebekah 
(Gen 24:16), Dinah (Gen 34:3), Pharaoh's daughter (Exod 2:5), and 
Queen Esther (Esth 2:4). 

Personal Attendant 

MacDonald also develops two realms in which the status of the 
"1373 may be seen: (1) in the domestic realm; and (2) in military 
contexts. 31 The "1373 was frequently a special personal attendant of a 
person of status. Thus not only was Abraham's "1373 called on to 
prepare the special meal for the three heavenly visitors (Gen 18:7-8), 
but later Abraham's trusted D , ")373 accompanied him to mount Moriah 
for the sacrificing of Isaac (Gen 22:3). Similarly, Joseph was a "1373 
over Potiphar's household and later came, as a "1573, into unique 
headship over Pharaoh's kingdom (Gen 41:12). Joshua, as the per- 
sonal attendant of Moses, was called a "1373 (Exod 33:11). When Saul 
was searching for his father's donkeys he was accompanied by, and 
listened to the advice of, his "1373 (1 Sam 9:22; cf. also 1 Kgs 11:20-28; 
18:41-44; 19:3; Judg 17:7, 10; 1 Sam 2:17; Ruth 2:5, 21). The point of 
the above list is to demonstrate that the role of a "1373 was a personal 
attendant of a person of status. MacDonald distinguishes between the 
upwardly mobile status of the 1373 and the more menial 1337 (servant); 
the 1373 could be put in charge over the D V T337. 

Military Cadet 

It is significant how frequently the 1373 is found in military 
contexts. He is one step above the regular troops, but not yet a 
mighty warrior such as Joab or Abner. When Joshua had to send out 
spies — hand-picked men to run reconnaissance on Jericho — he se- 
lected two skilled D , "]373 (J°sh 6:22). Such an important mission would 
not have been left in the hands of novices. Gideon, the fearful 
"mighty man of valor" (Judg 6:12) is told to take his trusted "1373 and 
go down to scout out the Midianite camp (Judg 7:10-11). Thus the 
seasoned warrior, Gideon, is accompanied by a squire, who, judging 
from the importance of the mission, is extremely skillful and trust- 
worthy. Jonathan, climbing the cliffs of Wadi Suwenit, took a trusted 
"1373 to face the formidable Philistine host. He and his armor-bearer 

30 Ibid„ 149. 
31 Ibid., 151, 156. 


fought and slew 20 men (1 Sam 14:14). It should be clear that the 
armor-bearer was himself a warrior, though of inferior status to 
Jonathan. David, as he faced Goliath, was also designated as a "IV? — 
hence the impropriety of his fighting the Philistine champion from 
Gath(l Sam 17:3 Iff.). 

Several points may be derived from the above data. First, it is 
clear from the military contexts that inexperienced children are not 
meant. Rather the word designates soldiers with status above the 
regular troops, yet clearly and sharply distinguished from the heroic 
warriors like Goliath, Joab, and Abner. The status of the "iy3 is also 
seen in his personal attendance on a person of status. The word is 
also used to describe sons of people of status. This usage is par- 
ticularly important in Proverbs, which is addressed to the royal sons. 
Status, not age per se, was the focus of "1173. While such clear societal 
structuring is somewhat foreign to the more egalitarian American 
culture, we dare not ignore it. Class distinctions were clearly marked 
not only in Israel, but also, as MacDonald and Rainey have shown, at 
Ugarit, where the only ancient cognate for the term "IS73 is a term of 
status used for guild members serving in the domestic sphere and as 
superior military figures. 32 Again, the focus is on status, not age. Thus 
when the Messianic king is called a "IS?3, His status and function are 
being highlighted (Isa 7:14-16). 

1V3 in Proverbs 

How does understanding of the role of the "1J?3 in Israelite society 
affect Proverbs 22:6? Due to various archaeological finds of the last 
100 years, it is possible to verify the presence of wisdom literature in 
all of the major cultures of the ancient Near East (Sumer, Meso- 
potamia, Ugarit, Egypt). In each of these cultures, wisdom literature 
was associated with, written for, and promulgated by the king 33 and 
his administrators — particularly the scribes. 34 The situation in Israel 

32 Ibid., 150. A. F. Rainey, "The Military Personnel of Ugarit," JNES 24 (1965) 17- 
27. Also vid. the Merneptah Inscription and a fourth century a.d. Samaritan Chronicle 
that clearly distinguishes between regular soldiers and the "na'ar" (McDonald, 152). 

33 Some helpful treatments of this topic are: Malchow, "The Roots of Israel's 
Wisdom in Sacral Kingship"; Leonidas Kalugila, The Wise King; Norman W. Porteous, 
"Royal Wisdom," VTSup 3 (1969) 247-61; and Humphreys, "The Motif of the Wise 
Courtier in the Old Testament" (Ph.D. dissertation, Union Theological Seminary, 
1970). Also vid. Humphrey's article "The Motif of the Wise Courtier in the Book of 
Proverbs," in Israelite Wisdom: Theological and Literary Essays in Honor of Samuel 
Terrien (Missoula: Scholars Press, 1978) 177-90. 

A. Leo Oppenheim, "A Note on the Scribes in Mesopotamia," Assyriological 
Studies 16 (1965) 253-56; and R. J. Williams, "Scribal Training in Ancient Egypt," 
JAOS 92 (1972) 214-21; Benno Landsberger, "Scribal Concepts of Education," in City 

hildebrandt: proverbs 22:6a: train up a child? 13 

was the same, for king Solomon (1 Kgs 4:31-32; Prov 1:1; 10:1) and 
king Hezekiah (Prov 25:1) are explicitly associated with the Israelite 
wisdom tradition. In this royal setting, terms of status, such as "1373, 
are to be expected. The proverbs helped prepare young squires for 
capable service at the head of the Israelite societal structure. Thus the 
suggestion that "1373 was a term of status, rather than merely of 
youthfulness, fits well with the original setting of proverbial wisdom 
literature not only in Israel, but also throughout the ancient Near 

More to the point, however, is how the term "1373 is actually used 
in Proverbs and whether its usage there is consistent with how it is 
used in other literary genres. It is used seven times in Proverbs (1:4; 
7:7; 20:11; 22:6, 15; 23:13; 29:15). Proverbs 1:4-5 announces that it is 
to the "1373 and to the simple, wise, and discerning that the book of 
Proverbs is addressed. Clearly in this context there is no hint that age 
is the key issue; rather, the "1373 and simple are grouped together (as 
are the wise and discerning) according to their relationship to wisdom. 
It is obvious from the message of Proverbs 1-9 (especially chs. 5 and 
7) that the "1373 was not a child. The very content of the proverbial 
material (sexual advice [Prov 5:1-6, 15-21; 31:10-31]; economic 
counsel [10:5; 11:1]; political instruction [25:6-7; 29:12]; social graces 
[23:2]; and military advice [24:6]) indicates that the "137? was a late 
adolescent or young adult. In Proverbs 1:4, the issue of the status is 
not in the foreground, but his need for wisdom. In Proverbs 7:7 the 
□'XriS (simple) and the "1373 are again paralleled, with the 1373 described 
as one lacking judgment. Proverbs 20:1 1 tells the 1373 that his behavior 
will be noticed and that it will reveal his heart. Proverbs 22:15 speaks 
of applying the rod of discipline to the -1373 to drive out folly. The 
point is that in spite of his naive bent for folly, he can be molded and 
instructed. Finally, Proverbs 29:15 says that a "1373 left to himself will 
disgrace his mother. 

Before concluding this analysis of "1373, it is worth noting that the 
"1373 in 22:6a is paralleled via grammatical transformation (noun/ verb) 
with growing old. Although MacDonald argues that when the "1373 
and )i?T (elder) are paralleled they are both terms of societal status, his 
case is disrupted by his own examples (Ps 37:25 [cf. also Deut 28:50]; 

Invincible: A Symposium on Urbanization and Cultural Development in the Ancient 
Near East, ed. C. Kraeling and R. M. Adams (Chicago: University of Chicago, 
1960) 123-27; A. F. Rainey "The Scribe at Ugarit," Israel Academy of Science and 
Humanities Proceedings 3 (1969) 126-46; J. H. Johnson, "Avoid Hard Work, Taxes, 
and Bosses: Be a Scribe!" Paper, Oriental Institute, University of Chicago, n.d.; Ake 
W. Sjoberg, "In Praise of the Scribal Art," JCS 14.2 (1972) 126-31; and Barry Hal- 
vorsen, "Scribes and Scribal Schools in the Ancient Near East: A Historical Survey" 
(Th.M. thesis, Grace Theological Seminary, 1981). 


148:11-13; Jer 6:11). While status difference between the "IV3 (squire) 
and the fj7T (elder) may be the point in some cases, it seems that the 
age component is sometimes more prominent than he is wont to 
accept. Furthermore, because of the verbal nature of )j?T in Proverbs 
26:6b, the aging process, rather than rank, seems to be in view. 

It should be clear that this verse should not be employed as 
biblical support for early childhood training, since the proverbial "IV3 
was surely an adolescent/ young adult. He is a royal squire who is in 
the process of being apprenticed in wisdom for taking on royal 
responsibilities consistent with his status as a "1173. 


The Moral View 

The third semantic structure (i3"n , ?~'?¥) must be addressed 
before bringing the assessment of Proverbs 22:6a to a conclusion. 
There are four views that have been suggested for understanding the 
meaning of "his way" (i3~n). McKane holds what can be called the 
narrow "Moral View". He maintains that in wisdom there is one 
right way, the way of life, and it is to this way that the young man is 
directed. It is this way upon which he should go. The juxtaposing of 
^\y] with a moral qualifier, whether positive — way of D^n (life) [6:23]; 
HP3 (understanding) [9:6]; 3iU (good) [2:20]; njriX (righteousness) 
[16:31]— or negative— way of JH (evil) [2:12]; DW] (wicked) [4:19] — 
is quite common in Proverbs, as McKane observes. However, in these 
cases *ip:J ls explicitly accompanied by a character qualifier. A quali- 
fier is given in Proverbs 22:6, but it is not a moralistic one. A similar 
view, although broader in understanding, is the view held by many 
that ^ll refers to the broad parental shaping of the child in the TH — 
meaning the general direction of righteousness, wisdom, and life — 
upon which that child should travel as he grows older. 36 Again the 
absence of moral or wisdom qualifiers (wise, righteous, upright, fool- 
ish, wicked, etc.) leaves this approach without decisive support. 

The Vocational View 

This view suggests that the training and the ^11 being described 
are vocationally oriented. 3 However, =p3 is not usually found in a 
vocational setting. Indeed the modern anxiety over vocational selec- 

McKane, Proverbs: A New Approach, 564; cf. also Deane, et al.. Proverbs The 
Pulpit Commentary, (Chicago: Wilcox and Follet, n.d.) 422; Collins, "A Hermeneutical 
and Exegetical Examination of Proverbs 22:6," 30-32; and Alden, 160. 

36 Zockler, The Proverbs of Solomon, 192. 

37 Deane, et al., Proverbs 411; and Jones, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, 183f. 

hildebrandt: proverbs 22:6a: train up a child? 15 

tion and training was not of great concern in the ancient Near East, 
in that the son often was trained in the same craft as the father. 38 
Furthermore, vocational selection is not really an issue in Proverbs. 
Rather, diligence, righteousness, uprightness, and shrewdness are en- 
couraged regardless of vocation. 

The Personal Aptitude View 

Many recent commentators have opted for the personal aptitude 
view. 39 Such an interpretation wisely advises that the parent must be 
keenly aware of the child's developing capacities, interests, and in- 
clinations and must tailor the training process to enhance his unique 
abilities. Toy and Oesterley suggest that there is more of an element 
of fate or destiny. For them, the child should be trained according to 
the manner of life for which he is destined. 40 Delitzsch is correct in 
observing that "the way of the Egyptians" is the manner of acting 
which was characteristic of the Egyptians (Isa 10:24). The "way of the 
eagle" (Prov 30:19) is the manner of movement characteristic to the 
eagle. But the conclusion drawn from that data is incorrect because 
"ll?5 is read as "child". It is concluded that "his way" means the unique 
way for that child.* 1 A suggestion more consistent with the term "1J73 
will be offered below. Delitzsch is correct, however, in using "IS73 to 
specify more clearly what is meant by ^YT. 

The Personal Demands View 

A small minority of writers have taken "according to his way" in 
an ironic sense. They suggest that the verse is saying that if you rear a 
child by acquiescing to his desires and demands, when he is old you 
will never break him of it. Thus the child, left to himself, will become 
irretrievably recalcitrant — spoiled, continually demanding his own 
way. But such a giving up on the "IJ7J is opposed to the optimistic 
outlook that Proverbs has on the teachability of the 1V3 (Prov 1:4). 
To the ruggedly individualistic and developmentally sensitive modern 
mind, the personal aptitude and personal demands views surely are 

38 Collins, "A Hermeneutical and Exegetical Examination of Proverbs 22:6," 31. 

39 Kidner, Proverbs, 147; Delitzsch, Commentary, 86; Oesterley, The Book of 
Proverbs (London: Methuen) 185; and Toy, Proverbs, 415-16. McKane also mentions 
Ringgren as holding this view (Proverbs: A New Approach, 564), as well as Perowne, 
(The Proverbs, 142). Much earlier it was held by the Jewish writer Saadia (Plaut, Book 
of Proverbs, 228). 

Oesterley, The Book of Proverbs with Introduction and Notes, 185; and Toy, 
Proverbs, 415-16. 

41 Delitzsch, Commentary, 86f. 

4i Ralbag as recorded in Greenstone, Proverbs with Commentary, 234. 

43 E. H. Erikson, Childhood and Society (NY: Norton, 1963)247-77. 


attractive. However, they do not reflect the ancient proverbial Weltan- 

The Status View 

Delitzsch is correct that the meaning of "the way" must be 
determined by the noun that is the antecedent of the 3ms suffix (his). 
If 1^3 is understood as a high-born squire, then it may be suggested 
that "according to his way" means according to the office that he will 
occupy. He is to be "broken-in" (^3n) as a "IJ73. Thus, "his way" should 
be the way befitting the dignity of a "IJ73. "His way" should also reflect 
an awareness of his developmental limitations and need for instruc- 
tion. This solution fits the Proverbial ethos and is consistent with the 
above-stated view of who the "IJ75 was in the structure of Israelite 

A Standard of Comparison 

The initial part of the prepositional phrase, "according to his 
way," should be read "according to the measure of his way". 44 It is 
used quite frequently with reference to the measure or standard of the 
words of Pharaoh (Gen 45:21), Yahweh (Exod 17:1; Num 3:16, 39), 
Moses (Exod 38:21), and Pharaoh Necho (2 Kgs 23:35). In a more 
abstract sense, it is used when one is measured against a standard, 
whether it be words (Exod 34:27), what the vower is able to pay (Lev 
27:8), or the Law (Dt 17:11). Thus it fits very well with initiating a "1373 
in accordance with the standard of who he is and what he is to 
become as a "IV3. 



A graph of the options presented in this paper provides a three- 
dimensional perspective on the choices. The more probable choices 
are given higher positions on the axes (see Table 1). 

What was the original intent of the verse? Several negative fea- 
tures must set the stage. Proverbs 22:6 is not a promise; it is a 
proverb and as such it does not describe truth comprehensively. 
Rather, it gives a single component of truth that must be fit together 
with other elements of truth in order to approximate the more com- 
prehensive, confused patterns of real life. Second, this verse should 
not be seen as a paradigm for a comprehensive parental or educa- 

BDB, 805; and Collins "A Hermeneutical and Exegetical Examination of Prov- 
erbs 22:6," 33f. 

hildebrandt: proverbs 22:6a: train up a child? 



Proverbs 22:6a 

(In order of increasing possibilities) 




Train Up 





1V3 Axis 



f- Young 

man/ Adolescent 

^Infant /Child 

/ (early training) 







tional process of instruction into which a particular theory of instruc- 
tion or child rearing may be read. Third, this verse should not be 
employed as direct biblical support for early childhood training since 
the proverbial "IJ73 was not an infant. Fourth, the phrase "according to 
his way" should not be understood as addressing developmental or 
personal aptitude issues, although obviously in child-rearing such 
parental sensitivities are crucial. 

Suggested Interpretation 

It is apparent that the usual translation of "child" for "IJ?3 is 
inadequate. The primary focus of "li?3 was his high-born status as a 
squire. In Proverbs the "W3 is a late adolescent/ young adult. Fur- 
thermore, the word usually translated "train up" (^5n) was shown to 
be used almost universally with the dedication/ initiation of temples, 
houses, altars, or walls. Thus to ^1T\ a young squire would be to 
recognize his status as a "IV3 and initiate him into his official 


capacities/ responsibilities with the respect and excitement fitting his 
status. "According to his way" meant according to the standard and 
status of what would be demanded of the 1273 in that culture. Thus the 
squire's status is to be recognized and his experience, training, and 
subsequent responsibilities are to reflect that high stature. Finally, 
this interpretation fits well in the context (Prov 22:1-9) which talks 
about societal relationships and responsibilities, particularly of the 
wealthy. 45 

What are the advantages of this interpretation? First, it makes 
sense of several difficult lexical problems that have formerly been 
ignored. Second, it fits the ethos of the Proverbial and wisdom 
materials. Third, it fits the words ^n, 13tt, and ^\~\1 into a coherent 

Dynamic Modern Potentialities 

Does the above interpretation of original intent destroy all mod- 
ern application? The child-rearing interpretation has been so con- 
venient and potent in addressing a major concern of many parents. 
Can this verse, with this proposed interpretation, provide for our 
world the dynamic interpersonal power that it must have originally 
evoked? First, the "1373 was the one being initiated and being given the 
recognition of the status which his title bestowed on him. Does this 
not teach that in initiating an adolescent into a position, the young 
person should be given the respect and dignity due the title under 
which he is being trained? If given that type of recognition, he will 
willingly continue his services when he gets older because he has 
gained in that position the dignity, respect and responsibility which 
provide him a healthy level of satisfaction. 

This idea of initiating someone with an appropriate level of 
dignity, respect and responsibility also fits well in a familial setting. 
The late adolescent (*15?3) should be treated with dignity and respect in 
view of creation (Gen 2) and redemption (Rev 20, etc.). Thus he 
should be given experience, training, status, and responsibilities cor- 
respondent to his role in the kingdom of God. An adolescent should 
be initiated into the adult world with celebrations. His status as a 
redeemed image bearer should demand parental involvement in terms 
of opening horizons, patient instruction, and loving discipline. It is 
his dominion, destiny and status that the parent must keep in mind. 
The parent must not violate the adolescent's personhood by authori- 
tarian domination, permissive allowance of immaturity, or overpro- 
tection from the consequences of his actions. 

Roland Murphy cogently shows how Prov 22:1-9 centers around the theme of 
riches. "Proverbs 22:1-9," Int 41:4 (1987) 398-402. 

hildebrandt: proverbs 22:6a: train up a child? 19 

This verse also teaches that when someone engages in an activity 
for the first time, a celebration of the event would encourage him in 
the correct path (e.g., Jewish Bar-Mitzvah celebrations). Thus, a 
word or deed of encouragement (recognition and celebration) that 
bestows respect and responsibility commensurate with status is one of 
the most powerful aspects of parental involvement in the life of an 
adolescent. It is also effective for employer/ employee relationships. 46 

These initial attempts at dynamically understanding this verse in 
light of modern relational structures suggest that a reinterpretation of 
a verse in its original setting need not eliminate dynamic applications. 
Both careful interpretation and application are critical if God's word 
is to be unleashed in a world that is in desperate need of a word of 
wisdom from the Sovereign of the Universe. 

46 Rudolf Dreikurs, Children: The Challenge (New York: Hawthorn/ Dutton, 1964), 
36-56. Larry Crabb and Dan Allender, Encouragment: The Key to Caring (Grand 
Rapids: Zondervan, 1984). 

Grace Theological Journal 9. 1 (1988) 21-43 




Jack Barentsen 

Doubts have arisen about the adequacy of human language to 
convey inerrant truth from God to man. These doubts are rooted in 
an empirical epistemology, as elaborated by Hume, Kant, Heidegger 
and others. Many theologians adopted such an empirical view and 
found themselves unable to defend a biblical view of divine, inerrant 
revelation. Barth was slightly more successful, but in the end he 
failed. The problem is the empirical epistemology that first analyzes 
man 's relationship with creation. Biblically, the starting point should 
be an analysis of man's relationship with his Creator. When ap- 
proached this way, creation (especially the creation of man in God's 
image) and the incarnation show that God and man possess an 
adequate, shared communication system that enables God to com- 
municate intelligibly and inerrantly with man. Furthermore, the 
Bible's insistence on written revelation shows that inerrant divine 
communication carries the same authority whether written or spoken. 

As a result of the materialistic, empirical scepticism of the last two 
centuries, many theologians entertain doubts about the ade- 
quacy of human language to convey divine truth (or, in some cases, 
to convey truth of any kind). This review of the philosophical and 
theological origins of the current doubts about language lays a 
foundation for a biblical view of language. 


One recent writer stated the problem of the adequacy of religious 
language in these words: 

The problem of religious knowledge, in the context of contemporary 
philosophical analysis, is basically this: no one has any. The problem of 


religious language, in the same context, is this: can we find an excuse 
for uttering these sentences we apparently have no business saying? 

The writer highlights two important aspects of the debate on the 
adequacy of language. First, the problems of religious knowledge and 
language arise primarily in the context of contemporary philosophical 
analysis. Second, the problem of religious language is inherent in the 
current sceptical view of religious knowledge: if we have no knowl- 
edge of transcendent realities, how could we speak about them in any 
meaningful way? What philosophical currents have led to such a 
bleak view of the possibility of religious knowledge and language? 


Hume 5 Empiricism 

David Hume (1711-1776) believed that all knowledge is derived 
from our sensations, referring to vision, hearing, feeling, smelling, 
and tasting. Experience alone is the key to understanding one's 
environment. Hume elevated experience as the measure of truth and 
held that ideas or thoughts could be valid only if they have their roots 
in experience. 

This premise has important implications for our understanding 
of intangible concepts such as cause and effect, theistic arguments, or 
ethics. For instance, no one has ever seen a cause or an effect. All we 
have seen is a succession of events that has been repeated several 
times so that in our minds we come to connect them as cause and 
effect. Since nobody can observe cause or effect in a literal sense, it is 
impossible to know whether such concepts are true. One may only 
suggest or speculate that such concepts are true about his experience. 

Knowledge is thus strictly limited to experience. It does not 
include speculation about experience. Concepts like cause and effect 
are thereby relegated to the realm of speculation rather than to the 
realm of knowledge. 

Hume applies the same argument to Christianity, theistic proofs, 
ethics (especially when dealing with absolute standards), and other 
related concepts: 

If we take in our hand any volume — of divinity or school metaphysics, 
for instance — let us ask Does it contain any abstract reasoning con- 
cerning quantity or number!. No. Does it contain any experimental 

D. R. Broiles, "Linguistic Analysis of Religious Language," Religious Language 
and Knowledge (ed. R. H. Ayers and W. T. Blackstone; Athens, GA: University of 
Georgia Press, 1981) 135. 

Cf. L. Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (trans. D. F. Pears and B. F. 
McGuinness; London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1961), 6:45, 6:522, 6:44, 6:432. 

barentsen: the validity of human language 23 

reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence! No. Commit it then 
to the flames: for it can contain nothing except sophistry and illusion. 3 

This position is called "empirical scepticism": any concept that 
does not immediately rest on experience cannot be the subject of our 
knowledge. Hume would not actually deny such intangible concepts. 
Cause and effect are helpful categories in discussing our experience, 
but the closest we come to knowledge is to assert that such categories 
are probable. 4 And while the concept of probability can be helpful, it 
cannot be described as settled knowledge. Though it may be helpful 
to digest the weatherman's nightly predictions, one grants them little 
status above that of informed speculation. 

Kant 's Metaphysical Dualism 

The problem with Hume's philosophy is that knowledge is not 
just limited; it is, in fact, impossible. How could knowledge arise 
from sensations? Our perception of a chair is no more than various 
impressions like the color brown, a particular shape, and a hard or 
soft feeling. These impressions are combined into the image of a 
chair. But what makes us select only those sensations that pertain to 
our perception of the chair rather than one of the dozens of other 
impressions we are receiving, such as the room being stuffy, the smell 
of food, the phone ringing, etc.? It would seem that the mind has an 
important part in arranging all these sensations so that our world 
becomes intelligible. "Knowledge presupposes the recognition and 
comparison of causal, spatial and temporal relations, and much 
more. None of this, however, is provided by the senses. They give 
only tastes, odors, color patches and so on." 

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) attempted to resolve this difficulty 
by appealing both to the human intellect and our experiences. His 
basic conclusion was that the mind had certain innate categories, such 
as space and time, by which the sensory data could be organized and 
arranged, and which thus made knowledge possible. 

This theory does not escape all of the difficulties of Hume's 
empiricism. Concepts like causality and necessity are now part of the 
mind's makeup and help us to explain our world. But Kant's cate- 
gories of the mind only help to organize and arrange the sensory 
data; they are of no help in thinking about the metaphysical world. 

3 D. Hume, Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (Indianapolis: Bobbs- 
Merrill, 1962), sec. 12, pt. 3, quoted in G. R. Habermas, "Skepticism: Hume," Biblical 
Errancy: An Analysis of its Philosophical Roots (ed. N. L. Geisler; Grand Rapids: 
Zondervan, 1981) 32. 

Habermas, "Skepticism: Hume," 32. 

5 D. W. Beck, "Agnosticism: Kant," in Geisler, Biblical Errancy, 57. 

6 Ibid., 59. 


Consequently, a concept of God is beyond our sensations and ex- 
periences as well as beyond our mind's makeup. Even though knowl- 
edge of experience is now possible, we are still unable to have 
knowledge of metaphysical realities. 

Kant, however, pursued the issue further. Being a religious man, 
he wished to establish a rational place for God in his system. For 
ethics, this insistence on rationality meant that any acceptable ab- 
solute standards had to be derived from the following maxim: "Act 
only according to that maxim by which you can at the same time will 
that it should be a universal law"; that is, you should do as you want 
everyone else to do. This is called the "categorical imperative." From 
this kind of reasoning, Kant envisaged that one could arrive at all 
other great metaphysical ideas, like freedom, God, and immortality. 
These concepts, though, cannot be known; they are speculations in 
considering the practical way of life. 

For Kant, then, reason was sufficient to discover all the vital 
truths that orthodox Christianity derived from revelation. Revelation 
became superfluous. Kant's insistence upon the rationality of ethics 
and religion left no place for divine revelation. Even so, reason could 
only speculate about metaphysical realities, but it could not attain 
absolute knowledge in this area. 

Kant's philosophy, like Hume's, has no room for religious knowl- 
edge beyond that of speculation. But Kant, unlike Hume, found a 
place for religion in his system through his categorical imperative. His 
religion is not a revealed religion, but an ethical one. 9 


Nineteenth Century Liberalism 

Many nineteenth century theologians, following Hume's sceptical 
views, rejected the supernatural. God, Christ, angels and many other 
concepts of the supernatural are not immediately subject to our 
senses of hearing, vision, touch, taste or smell. Therefore, so these 
theologians reasoned, we cannot really know anything about the 
supernatural; all we have is speculation. These men came to see the 
world as a closed continuum without any supernatural beings or 

Naturally, the idea followed that we have no divine revelation. In 
a closed continuum God could not have intervened to create any 

7 Ibid.,61. 

8 Cf. C. van Til, The Protestant Doctrine of Scripture (N.p.: den Bulk Christian 
Foundation, 1967) 54. 

9 In biblical exegesis a corresponding shift has been noticed, "from Luther's explicit 
christocentrism to ethicocentrism" (Beck, "Agnosticism: Kant," 67). 

barentsen: the validity of human language 25 

written, revealed record. "In a closed system . . . any idea of revela- 
tion becomes nonsense." The emphasis shifted accordingly from 
God's Word to human witness. The Bible became only a record of 
man's experiences of the divine; and rather than revealing God, the 
Bible dealt with man's reactions to what he perceived to be divine. 
Although man's experience with the divine is important, it is inade- 
quate to serve as the basis of a theistic worldview. 

The next logical step was to forsake the Bible altogether. How- 
ever, theologians generally avoided this radical step by rejecting as 
authoritative any human influences in the Bible while holding on to 
what traces of divine influence they could find. The Historical-Critical 
school represents this movement. The focus of exegesis became God's 
activity in history rather than his word about these activities. Doc- 
trine was inferred from the historical record rather than being derived 
from God's statements about that record. Although God was not 
conceived of as intervening directly in history (as witnessed by the 
denial of miracles 11 ) he apparently could still have some effect. 1 

Barth's Neo- Orthodoxy 

It seems that one of Karl Barth's main concerns has been to 
recover a biblical concept of God. In order to do so, he returned to 
some concept of revelation, although it was not in agreement with the 
biblical concept. He also recovered a sense of God, in that God was 
supposed to speak through the Bible. 

Yet, his effort was crippled from the beginning, because he 
founded his theology on the Kantian and Humean premise that 
knowledge is derived from experience. 

We cannot conceive God because we cannot even contemplate him. He 
cannot be the object of one of those perceptions to which our concepts, 
our thought forms and finally our words and sentences are related. 13 

Furthermore, under the ban of Kantian metaphysical dualism, he 
stated: "God cannot be compared to anyone or anything. He is only 
like himself." 14 That is, God is wholly Other, totally different from 

10 F. A. Schaeffer, He Is There And He Is Not Silent (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 
1972) 63. 

"Habermas, "Skepticism: Hume," 31. 

12 S. Obitts, "The Meaning and Use of Religious Language," Tensions of Con- 
temporary Theology (ed. S. N. Gundry and A. F. Johnson; Chicago: Moody, 1976) 107. 

13 K. Barth, Church Dogmatics (London: T. & T. Clark, 1936ff.) II, 1:186 (140). All 
references to Barth's Church Dogmatics as given are cited in G. H. Clark, Karl Barth's 
Theological Method (Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1963). The number in 
parentheses refers to this work. 

14 Ibid., II, 1:376(146). 


ourselves. He is completely removed from the sphere of sensory 
experience. Consequently, man cannot attain to a true knowledge of 
God. 15 

Barth's view of language proceeds from this emphasis on experi- 
ence. Language, he argues, as sinful and perverted man uses it, is 
limited to this world.' 6 Any attempt and intention to speak of God is 
impossible, because "God does not belong to the world. Therefore he 
does not belong to the series of objects for which we have categories 
and words." And, of course, without concepts and words, we 
cannot speak of God. 

Despite his heavy emphasis on the limitations of language, Barth 
makes a desperate attempt to allow language to speak of God. 
Theological language, "whatever the cost, must always speak and 
believe that it can speak contrary to the natural capacity of this 
language, as theological language of God's revelation." 18 How can 
language on the one hand be so limited that it cannot possibly speak 
of God, while on the other hand the theologian must believe that, 
"whatever the cost," this language can speak of God? The answer 
seems to lie in a mystical view of language. In its normal use, 
language refers to the objects of our experience; but in its theological 
use, it points to some greater reality beyond itself. A dogma seems to 
refer to an inner meaning that is not itself a proposition, although 
this inner meaning is referred to by a proposition. Barth most 
emphatically refuses to identify the inner meaning of a dogma with 
the plain meaning of the proposition, which is considered merely an 
impersonal, objective truth-in-itself. The Bible no longer contains 
propositional truth, but rather becomes the vehicle through which 
"the prophets and apostles and he of whom they testify rise up and 
meet the Church in a living way." 

Barth's attempt to move toward a more biblical religion than 
what liberal theology offered was noble. However, by granting some 
of the premises of liberalism, he compromised his position from the 
very beginning. What we have left is not a biblical religion of 

15 On this basis Barth later denied that man was created in the image of God (G. H. 
Clark, "The Image of God in Man," JETS 12 [Fall, 1969] 221). 

16 Barth, Church Dogmatics, I, 1:390 (119). 

17 Ibid., I, 2:750(117). 

18 Ibid., I, 1:390(120). 

19 Ibid., I, 1:313 (135). See also Clark's comments on Barth, Karl Barth's Theo- 
logical Method, 129. 

20 Ibid., I, 2:582. See also J. W. Montgomery, "Inspiration and Inerrancy: A New 
Departure," Bulletin of the Evangelical Theological Society 8:2 (1965) 63-66. Note the 
similarity to Kierkegaard's rejection of objective divine truth in favor of subjectivity, 
discussed by N. L. Geisler, "Philosophical Presuppositions of Biblical Errancy," in 
Inerrancy (ed. N. L. Geisler; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1979) 327. 

barentsen: the validity of human language 27 

revelation, but a system of religious beliefs that contrasts to an 
extreme degree man's finitude and God's transcendence. As a con- 
sequence, man cannot really know God in the traditional sense, so 
Barth takes recourse to existentialism; rather than choosing for 
revealed religion, he chooses the path of irrationalism. 21 

Some Twentieth Century Developments 

Barth's idea of revelation is closely related to Kierkegaard's idea 
of truth as subjectivity instead of objective knowledge. " It is the idea 
that there can be "no absolute expression of truth in propositional 
form." 23 In contemporary theology this idea takes various forms. 
Some would hold that revelation is not incompatible with proposi- 
tional truth but that the most important aspect of revelation is "God 
giving himself to us in Jesus Christ." But for most writers the choice 
is between the person of God and propositions about him. 25 Yet 
others, repulsed by the idea that our speech makes God into an 
object, hold that any speech about God is illegitimate. 

The separation of the subjective understanding of truth from the 
objective reality to be understood gives rise to a similar dichotomy 
between God's words and his acts. God's words, we are told, do not 
convey information either about the world or about himself, pri- 
marily because supernatural words cannot occur in an experiential 
type of knowledge. 27 The attractive suggestion is made that the Bible 
is "not propositional and static, but dynamic and active; its focus is 
on acts, not assertions." 8 While there is an element of truth here 
(that the Bible is dynamic, cf. Heb 4:12), it would be wrong to 

" "It is not surprising that Dr. Karl Barth's slogan Finitum non capax infiniti [the 
finite cannot comprehend the infinite] went together with a denial ... of any rational 
understanding of revelation" (E. Mascall, Words and Images: A Study in Theological 
Discourse [New York: Ronald Press, 19547] 104, quoted in G. H. Clark, Language and 
Theology [Phillipsburg: NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1980] 95). 

G. H. Clark, Religion, Reason, and Revelation (Philadelphia: Presbyterian and 
Reformed, 1961) 76. 

" See Montgomery, "Inspiration and Inerrancy," 53. 

4 J. H. Gill, "Talk About Religious Talk," New Theology No. 4 (ed. M. E. Marty 
and D. G. Peerman; New York: Macmillan, 1967) 103. 

" See Geisler, "Philosophical Presuppositions of Biblical Errancy," 330. 
6 H. Ott, "Language and Understanding," in Marty and Peerman, New Theology 
No. 4, 142. Yet another form of the objection is that language cannot express absolute 
truth, because it is "conditioned by its historical development and usage" (see Mont- 
gomery, "Inspiration and Inerrancy," 53; see our discussion later in this article). 

See C. F. H. Henry, God, Revelation, and Authority (6 vols.; Waco, TX: Word, 
1976-1982), 3:248. 

" See Montgomery's analysis in "Inspiration and Inerrancy," 52. Pinnock shows 
the influence of this thinking when he states, "At the core of the biblical conception is 
revelation as divine activity" (Biblical Revelation [Chicago: Moody, 1971] 31). 


minimize God's statements while exclusively emphasizing his acts in 
history. 29 

Bultmann and Brunner have further developed Barth's mystical 
view of theological language. Language about God is not merely 
propositional truth but is instead symbolic of the greater reality to 
which it refers. 30 Their program of demythologizing biblical language 
would presumably bring one closer to God. 

Heidegger's Irrational Mysticism 

Heidegger takes the concept of knowledge based on experience 
to its logical extreme. For him, any kind of language is mystical, not 
just theological language. Kant had argued that knowledge of reality 
was only possible through the categories of the mind. Since we 
cannot know things apart from these categories, Heidegger maintains 
that we cannot know things as they are "in-themselves." So no true 
knowledge of reality as it is "in-itself " is possible. 

The result of Heidegger's philosophy is that not only are meta- 
physical realities beyond the scope of our knowledge, but so are 
physical realities. Earlier, divine realities constituted the ineffable 
reality that is encountered rather than heard or understood, but now 
everything we see and experience is really ineffable. To put it in more 
Heideggerian terms, 

language becomes mystical message from the ineffable voice of Being. 
The unsayable cannot be said, only felt. 

Or, according to Van Til's interpretation, "there is a kernel of 
thingness in every concrete fact that utterly escapes all possibility of 
expression." 33 Thus, all of language, not merely theological language, 
is reduced to a function other than conveying cognitive knowledge. 

At least two important corollaries of this philosophy should be 
mentioned. First, as we hinted, knowledge is no longer the organiza- 
tion of empirical data into true propositions. This would only amount 
to "substituting a small segment of verbalization for experiential 

29 R. K. Curtis, "Language and Theology: Some Basic Considerations," GordRev 
1:3(1955) 102. 

30 See N. L. Geisler, Philosophy of Religion (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1974) 230. 

31 A. Dulles, "Symbol, Myth, and the Biblical Revelation," in Marty and Peerman, 
New Theology No. 4, 41. 

32 See H. M. Ducharme, Jr., "Mysticism: Heidegger," in Geisler, Biblical Er- 
rancy, 223. 

33 C. van Til, "Introduction," in B. B. Warfield, The Inspiration and Authority of 
the Bible (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1948) 19. 

barentsen: the validity of human language 29 

knowledge." 34 So, while propositional knowledge may be public since 
many people can agree with it, the new concept of experiential 
knowledge is private since each person's experiences differ, if ever so 
slightly, from the experiences of others. "No two people see anything 
alike in every respect." 35 

A second corollary of this thoroughgoing relativity in language is 
that the study of a text no longer needs to be a consideration of the 
intentions of the author as expressed in the affirmations of the text; 
rather the text is one object among many in our environment. The 
text now becomes autonomous and its meaning depends on the needs 
of human existence at any particular time. 36 A multiplicity of mean- 
ings results which cannot be checked except by the existential truth 
each meaning carries for a particular person. 37 


Following empirical philosophies, theologians have often con- 
sidered truth more and more as a subjective event. This has dan- 
gerous consequences. If propositions merely point to some greater 
reality which itself cannot be expressed in propositions, then how can 
we know anything about that reality? If we can have a genuine 
experience of that reality, it would seem that we could assert at least a 
few objective truths about it in propositional form. 

A more serious problem is this: since experience cannot be 
expressed in propositions, how can we know whether it is true or 
false? This seems impossible to determine. 38 We seem to have no 
means by which to distinguish an experience with a greater, evil 
reality from a similar experience with a good reality. Clearly, the 
theory that knowledge is based on experience is not a very satis- 
factory solution to the philosophical problem of knowledge. 

With regard to theological language, the proposed choice be- 
tween the person of God and propositions about him is a false 
dilemma. It is not a question of either/ or but rather of both/ and. 
Revelation is God revealing himself — sometimes in propositional 

34 Curtis, "Language and Theology," 99. 

35 Ibid., 100. 

36 Ducharme, "Mysticism: Heidegger," 212. Note the similarity with the distinction 
sometimes made between devotional Bible reading and biblical exegesis. 

37 At this point a brief analysis of Ayer's Language, Truth and Logic and some of 
Wittgenstein's writings could be helpful, but it exceeds the scope of this article. Suffice 
it to mention that the basic problem remains the same, an epistemology that wants to 
derive all knowledge from experience alone. 

38 Clark, Religion, Reason, and Revelation, 86. 


truth, sometimes in personal acts (e.g., Isa 6:1-8) — but always for the 
purpose of our trusting the person of God. 

The disjunction between faith in a person and belief in a creed is a 
delusion. . . . Trust in a person is a knowledge of a person; it is a 
matter of assenting to certain propositions. 9 

As long as propositions take us beyond dry creedal conformity into a 
relationship with a living person, there is no real person/ proposition 

One may well conclude, then, that the attempt to explain theo- 
logical language in terms of empirical knowledge theory is an utter 
failure. Without reference to the biblical concept of divine revelation, 
theological language will either crash on the rocks of rationalism or 
evaporate in the mysteries of irrationalism. 


The failure of modern philosophy to defend even the possibility 
of theological language reinforces an important principle: that "Chris- 
tianity is based on revelation, not experience." 40 Therefore, instead of 
refuting sceptics on their own grounds or building a philosophy of 
language on their philosophical premises (as theologians have tried 
and failed), biblical data will be used to paint a biblical picture of 
religious language. 

It may be objected that such a presuppositional approach in- 
volves circular reasoning. 41 But the choice is not between one ap- 
proach that is circular in its reasoning and another that is not. It 
should be evident from this review of modern philosophy that once 
one assumes knowledge to be exclusively experiential, he will not be 
able to defend propositional revelation. This in turn implies that 
knowledge is only experiential — which is circular reasoning. The 
choice is, rather, between sets of presuppositions. 


The Bible never directly addresses the question of whether God 
can meaningfully speak to man. It is assumed as self-evident that God 

39 Ibid., 102. Notice also that the Bible rules out the concept of existential or 
subjective truth, because it frequently refers to "hearing" or "understanding," terms 
which would be irrelevant on the modern view, according to W. J. Martin, "Special 
Revelation as Objective," in C. F. H. Henry, Revelation and the Bible (Grand Rapids: 
Baker, 1958) 66. 

Clark, Language and Theology, 141. 

41 M. E. Taber, "Fundamentalist Logic," The Christian Century, July 3, 1957; 817. 

barentsen: the validity of human language 31 

can intelligibly communicate with the human beings he created. 
Likewise it is assumed that man can understand and interact with the 
God who made him. 42 As these assumptions are uncovered exegeti- 
cally, we will address the issues often discussed under the heading of 
"philosophy of language." 

The Starting Point of a Biblical Philosophy of Language 

As has been suggested, one of the Bible's assumptions is that 
God can speak to man because he created him. In other words, God 
must have endowed man with adequate faculties to respond to and 
interact with his Creator. One of the most prominent features of the 
creation of mankind is that God created them "in his own image" 
(Gen 1:27). This text (and related ones) brings out some important 
guidelines for a doctrine of the image of God in man without directly 
defining it. 

Gen 1:26, "Let us make man in our image, according to our 
likeness,'" uses the two terms D^S and m^"!. It appears that both refer 
to a visible image or at least something that can be visualized, while 
moi is the more abstract of the two. 43 The Hebrew construction is 
most likely a hendiadys and would therefore function as a form of 
parallelism, 4 so it is best to take the latter term as intensifying the 
former. Thus, we should not distinguish rigidly between the two 
terms. 45 The resultant meaning is that "man, the end point, can be 
recognized as being an adequate copy of the God who made him, the 
starting point. 

It would be hard to make much of the different prepositions 
used, - 3 and - 3. While the clause in Gen 1:26 reads lamma "nota, it 
reads Ift 1 ?^ imO"D in Gen 5:3; the prepositions remain in place, but 
the nouns have changed positions. The difference in the use of these 

4 "See J. I. Packer, "The Adequacy of Human Language," in Geisler, Inerrancy, 
208-11 for a brief analysis of the kind of language the Bible uses. He shows that 
biblical language is a normal language, no different from daily speech except in the 
topics it deals with. 

43 T. Craigen, "Selem and D e mut: An Exegetical Interaction" (unpublished term 
paper, Grace Theological Seminary, 1980) 5, 11. 

44 P. F. Taylor, "Man: His Image and Dominion" (unpublished Th.D. dissertation, 
Grace Theological Seminary, 1974) 62-63. 

45 L. S. Chafer, Systematic Theology (8 vols.; Dallas: Dallas Seminary Press, 1947), 
2:161; C. L. Feinberg, "The Image of God," BSac 129 (June-August 1972) 237; C. F. 
Keil and F. Delitzsch, The Pentateuch, vol. 1 (trans. J. Martin, in Biblical Commentary 
on the Old Testament; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1971); H. C. Leupold, Exposition of 
Genesis, vol. 1 (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1942); and Taylor, "Man: His Image and 
Dominion," 71. 

46 Craigen, "Selem and D e mut: An Exegetical Interaction," 24. 


prepositions is negligible. 47 Both of these prepositions can mean 
"after," but it would be clumsy to interpret this as if man is the copy 
of an image of God, "after our image and likeness." Rather we should 
take this to mean that man himself constitutes the image of God. 

Furthermore, Gen 1:26 mentions the image of God in man and 
man's dominion in one single breath. This should not, however, lead 
us to conclude that dominion is part of this image: 

Man must exist before dominion can be invested in him and . . . man 
has authority because of the truth that he is made in the image or 
likeness of God. The authority is not the cause of the image or likeness, 
but the image or likeness is the ground of authority. 

The next two verses (vv 27-28) identify the image as part of man's 
essential makeup, whereas dominion is an office conferred upon him; 
the image is created, the dominion is commanded. The image is the 
foundation of man's dominion. 

Thus, according to Gen 1:26-28, man himself is the image of 
God in the sense that God is the pattern after which man was made; 
God is the archetype and man the ectype. As a result man has been 
granted dominion over the earth. 

In light of this, it would be erroneous to follow the common 
procedure of determining the content of the image of God by 
discerning what characteristics differentiate man from animals. If 
God is the archetype, then a more biblical approach is to examine the 
divine image in relation to God, not in relation to the rest of 

Accordingly, a biblical philosophy of language (as well as a bib- 
lical epistemology) should begin by analyzing the Creator-creature 
relationship and only secondarily the relationships between creatures 
and with the rest of creation. 52 This is strikingly different from the 
philosophies of Hume and Kant which began by analyzing man's 
relationship with created things and sought to explain any relation- 
ship with the supernatural in terms of the observable relationships 
between man and things. 

47 Ibid., 19. Cf. also L. Berkhof, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 
1941) 204; J. Calvin, Commentaries on the First Book of Moses Called Genesis (trans, 
and ed. J. King, reprint ed.; Grand Rapids: Baker, 1979); Keil and Delitzsch, The 
Pentateuch; and Leupold, Exposition of Genesis. 

48 Taylor, "Man: His Image and Dominion," 71-72. 

49 Chafer, Systematic Theology, 2:162. 

50 Feinberg, "The Image of God," 239; Keil and Delitzsch, The Pentateuch; 
J. Piper, "The Image of God," Studia Biblica et Theologica 1 (March 1971) 20. 

51 Cf. D. Cairns, The Image of God in Man (London: Collins, 1973) 118. 

"Even then man's relationship with his fellows is more important than his 
relationship with the rest of creation (cf. Gen 2:18). 

barentsen: the validity of human language 33 

It may be objected that, in a fallen world, God no longer serves 
as an archetype to whom man is reliably comparable. The human 
capacity for a relationship with God has been crippled by the effects 
of the fall. Sin obviously hinders our relationship with God. So how 
could we base a philosophy of language on this doctrine of the image 
of God and analyze a Creator-creature relationship marred by sin? 

This admittedly is a difficult task. But the continuing importance 
of the doctrine in several areas of human conduct must not be 

The first human birth in history is recorded with the words, 
"Adam . . . had a son in his own likeness, in his own image" (Gen 
5:3). The terminology used in this verse is almost equivalent to Gen 
1:26 (which may have been what Luke had in mind when he wrote, 
"Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God," Luke 3:38). This passage 
establishes the fact that the pattern for the creation of man is 
perpetuated in human procreation. 53 Many expositors hold that this 
passage teaches that fallen human nature is transmitted from one 
generation to the next. 54 Although one may agree with this statement 
in the light of further revelation (e.g., Romans 5), the passage itself 
does not address this issue. The repetition of the terminology of Gen 
1:26 in 5:3 refers the first human birth back to the creation process 
and shows that the image of God in Adam is recreated in Seth 
through human procreation. 

A second passage in Genesis is more problematic: 

(1) Whoever sheds the blood of man, 

(2) by man shall his blood be shed; 

(3) for in the image of God has God made man (Gen 9:6). 
The first and most debated question is whether phrase (2) refers to the 
institution of human government or to a designated avenger of blood. 
The context, however, does not decide this issue, so "the argument . . . 
is based on silence." 55 

A second question, often overlooked, is whether phrase (3) refers 
to phrase (1) or (2) or both. If it is taken as referring to the second 
phrase, then the conclusion would be that man has the right to punish 
murder, because man as the one who punishes is made in God's 
image and is therefore clothed "with the judicial function appertain- 
ing to kingly office." 56 It is unlikely, however, that the image of God 

"Chafer, Systematic Theology, 2:167. 

54 Calvin, Commentaries on the First Book of Moses; Keil and Delitzsch, The 
Pentateuch; Harold G. Stigers, A Commentary on Genesis (Grand Rapids: Zon- 
dervan, 1976). 

55 J. J. Davis, Paradise to Prison: Studies in Genesis (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1975). 

56 M. G. Kline, "Creation in the Image of the Glory-Spirit," WTJ 39 (Spring 
1977) 265. 


is the foundation of man as judge. The imago dei is usually men- 
tioned in contexts that are concerned with personal ethics and not 
with judgment per se. 

In verse 5b God demands an accounting from each man "for the 
life of his fellow man." The manner of this accounting is indicated in 
verse 6, phrases (1) and (2), while the reason for God's demand is 
given in verse 6, phrase (3). Thus, God's demand for an account of 
human life is based on the divine image in man: murder destroys this 



Capital punishment is not, in essence, retaliation for life de- 
stroyed or harm done; it is the punishment for one who blasphemes 
God by destroying what God expressly made in his image. Man's 
possession of the image of God continues to have profound moral 
implications even in a fallen world. 

Similar moral implications are evident in Jas 3:9. Hiebert points 
out that the perfect tense used in "men, who have been made in God's 
likeness" indicates a present result of a past event. 5 "The connection 
is simply that one cannot pretend to bless the person (God) and 
logically curse the representation of that person (a human). " j9 

1 Cor 1 1:7 is somewhat more difficult. Paul identifies the man as 
"the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man." It 
is not immediately clear why only the man is identified as the image 
of God. Paul has been explaining that Christ is the head of every man 
who, in turn, is the head of the woman (v 3). In vv 8-9 he refers back 
to Gen 2:21-24 and "uses the mode of Creation to prove simply that 
God intended men and women to be different." 60 The difference is not 
whether both men and women are created in God's image (the text is 
silent about women in this respect), but rather whose glory men and 
women are. 

In our context, it is best to take 56£,a in the objective sense of 
that which "honors and magnifies" God. 61 Thus, the passage teaches 
that "a man, who is the image of God, reveals how beautiful a being 

Calvin, Commentaries on the First Book of Moses: Keil and Delitzsch, The 
Pentateuch; Leupold, Exposition of Genesis. 

D. E. Hiebert, The Epistle of James: Tests of a Living Faith (Chicago: 
Moody, 1979). 

P. H. Davids, The Epistle of James, A Commentary on the Greek Text, in The 
New International Greek Text Commentary (ed. I. H. Marshall and W. W. Gasque; 
Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1982); Hiebert, The Epistle of James. 

60 J. Murphy-O'Connor, "Sex and Logic in 1 Cor 1 1:2-16," CBQA2 (1980) 496. 

F. W. Grosheide, Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians, in New 
International Commentary on the New Testament (ed. F. F. Bruce; Grand Rapids: 
Eerdmans, 1953). See also A. Feuillet, "L'Homme 'Gloire de Dieu' et la Femme 'Gloire 
de FHomme,"' RevBib 81 (1974) 172, and F. Godet, Commentary on the First Epistle 
of St. Paul to the Corinthians, vol. 2 (trans. A. Cusin; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 

barentsen: the validity of human language 35 

God could create, which makes him the crown of creation, the glory 
of God. A woman, on the other hand, reveals how beautiful a being 
God could create from a man." 62 

Paul highlights a man's relationship to God by mentioning not 
only glory but also the image. But when he discusses a woman's 
relationship to a man, he cannot simply repeat that "she is the image 
and glory of man" because a woman is not made in the image of man. 
Yet he does not want to say that "a woman is the image of God and 
the glory of man," because he is singling out a woman's relationship 
to a man. Thus Paul drops the concept of image and only states that 
"the woman is the glory of man." He leaves understood that a woman 
is in the image of God, while he points out man's close relationship to 
God by expressly referring to the image. 

Clearly, the doctrine of the image of God is far from irrelevant in 
a fallen world. It adds significantly to our understanding of human 
procreation (Gen 5:3), capital punishment (Gen 9:6), human relation- 
ships (Jas 3:9) and orderly conduct in the church (1 Cor 11:7). These 
observations certainly allow the doctrine to play a significant role in a 
biblical philosophy of language. 

Human Language Legitimately Refers to the Supernatural 

Inquiring into the doctrine of the image of God points to the 
primacy of the Creator-creature relationship. Therefore, man's exis- 
tence in the image of God is first of all to be seen in light of God's 
presence. Man's existence takes on a moral dimension and is first of 
all a theological fact, only secondarily an existential reality. The fact 
that man exists is secondary to the fact that God has created him. 

The Genesis account itself supports this concept. God on several 
occasions pronounced his creation good. On the sixth day, after 
creating man in the image of himself, he pronounced it "very good" 
(Gen 1:31). This establishes a "profound moral significance to man's 

1957). R. C. H. Lenski (The Interpretation of Paul's First and Second Epistles to the 
Corinthians [Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1937]) interprets 56^a as "reflection" but this has 
little support from other sources (see Feuillet, 163). Others have taken the term as 
indicating "supremacy" (J. Moffat, The First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians, in The 
Moffat New Testament Commentary [London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1938]), but this 
is also unlikely, since the term either carries a subjective meaning, such as "opinion, 
belief, conjecture," or refers to the objective reality of "reputation, glory, honor" 
(Feuillet, 163). In addition, the Hebrew word TOD corresponds to the Greek 56^a, 
which also indicates a meaning other than reflectior of supremacy (Ibid., 164). 

62 Grosheide, Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians. Cf. D. R. 
DeLacey, "Image and Incarnation in Pauline Christology — A Search for Origins," 
TynBul 30 (1979) 18-19, and Feuillet, "L'Homme 'Gloire de Dieu' et la Femme 'Gloire 
de 1'Homme,' " 178. 


appearance as the divine imago-bearer.'''' Before the creation of the 
world the persons of the Trinity "communicated with each other, 
and loved each other (John 17:5-8, 21-24)." With creation, God 
broadened the circle of communication to include mankind. This 
communication implies "a human capacity to grasp and respond to 
His [God's] verbal address." 65 If man utilizes his capacity for com- 
munication in "articulately and intelligently responding" to God's 
call, he brings glory to God in his own unique way. 66 

Any attempt to define the content of the divine image must take 
account of these facts. "The ability to know and love God must stand 
forth prominently in any attempt to ascertain precisely what the 
image of God is." 67 The role of reason in this matter is hotly debated. 
Clark argues that reason is the image of God, because morality and 
fellowship both require the use of reason. 68 This, however, would 
only necessitate that reason is part, or at least a precondition, of the 

Whatever else may be said about the exact content of the image, 
it certainly implies a capacity for fellowship and communication with 
God. As such it underlies all of revelation. The image implies 
that "the communication system of God and that of man are not 
disjoint." This assures us of the intelligibility of God's revelation: 

By dependence upon and fidelity to divine revelation, the surviving 
imago assures the human intelligibility of divine disclosure. ... It 
qualifies man not only as a carrier of objective metaphysical truth 
about God's nature and ways, but more particularly as a receiver of the 
special revelational truth of redemption. 

We must add that this is valid only if reason submits to and 
fellowships with God, which presupposes a regenerate state (1 Cor 

Henry, Go d, Revelation, and Authority, 2:126. See also Chafer, Systematic 
Theology, 2:162, and Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 204. 
64 Schaeffer, He Is There And He Is Not Silent, 16, 65. 
"Packer, "The Adequacy of Human Language," 214. 

66 T. A. Hoble, "Our Knowledge of God According to John Calvin," EvQuar 54 
(January March 1982) 8. Perhaps the fact that "God created man in His own 
image . . . ; male and female He created them" (Gen 1:27) indicates that communi- 
cation between a man and his wife is to be a reflection of the fellowship and 
communication in the Trinity, especially since marriage joins a man and a woman, two 
individuals, into one whole. 

Feinberg, "The Image of God," 246. 
6 Clark, "The Image of God in Man," 218 
69 ISBE, s.v. "God, the Image of," J. Orr, 2:1264. 
K. L. Pike, "The Linguist and Axioms Concerning the Language of Scripture," 
7/15/4 26(1974)48. 

Henry, God, Revelation, and Authority, 2:130. See also Packer, "The Adequacy 
of Human Language," 215-16. 

barentsen: the validity of human language 37 

2:11-12). Does this mean we understand God's language, the vehicle 
of his revelation to us? Although God can certainly communicate 
without language (e.g., through natural revelation, dreams, visions, 
etc.), his saving communication to the non-apostolic, non-prophetic 
believer takes the form of written revelation and thus involves God's 
use of language. Although man is certainly different from God (he is 
a sinner, he is finite, he is time-and-space-bound), his possession of 
the image of God seems to ensure that God and man share enough 
crucial attributes (the ability to reason, the capacity for relationship, 
etc.) to make a shared language possible. Thus, not only is general 
revelation possible, but also a special revelation involving language 
that is intelligible to man. The basic likeness of intellect between the 
divine and the human seems to provide for divine-to-human intelligi- 
bility through language as well as other vehicles of revelation. 

Empirical knowledge theory held that human language does not 
naturally speak of God; that it cannot speak legitimately of the 
supernatural. The Bible, on the other hand, paints a different picture. 
Man is truly man as he responds to and fellowships with God. The 
doctrine of the divine image in man implies that creature and Creator 
can relate together and possess an adequate shared communication 
system for that purpose. There can be little doubt, then, contrary to 
much contemporary thinking, that human language legitimately com- 
municates about the supernatural. 72 Consequently, to speak about 
God is not to "stretch" ordinary language as many linguists today 
would aver. "What is unnatural is the 'shrinking' of language reflected 
in the supposition that it can talk easily and naturally only of physical 
objects." 73 

Human Language Originated with God 

One of the problems for modern philosophy and evolutionary 
thinking is the origin of language. If words originated as conventional 
signs for ideas or impressions that arose from human experience, then 
it remains incomprehensible how the first of these conventional signs 
could be understood. 

The Biblical Adam and Eve, or the first two evolutionary savages, 
would not have talked to one another. Adam would have selected a 

72 This does not, of course, imply that man can exhaustively understand any 
supernatural concept. All that is claimed is that God can use human language as an 
adequate vehicle of divine truth; and man, in the image of God, has been created as a 
moral agent, accountable to act on this truth which he is capable of understanding. See 
also R. Nicole, "A Reply to 'Language and Theology,'" GordRev 1:4 (December 
1955) 144. 

"Packer, "The Adequacy of Human Language," 214. 


sound for tree, sun, or air, and Eve would have had no idea what it 
referred to. 74 

If evolutionary theory were true, then, it is likely that Eve had no idea 
what Adam was trying to communicate. 

The problem is only further complicated when the biblical 
account is fully considered. Some of the words in the Genesis account 
may have been derived by abstraction from experience (though that is 
hard to imagine), but to expect Adam to accomplish all this in one 
day would be too taxing even for his superior capacities. 75 

Further analysis of the Genesis record yields important data 
about the origin of human language. Genesis describes God as the 
first language user, and "shows us that human thought and speech 
have their counterparts and archetypes in Him." God instituted 
language as the vehicle of communication between man and himself. 
Appropriately, the first experience of man described in Genesis is the 
hearing of God's blessing and his command to fill the earth and 
subdue it (Gen 1:28). Human language, then, originated not with 
man's observation of creation but with man hearing God's voice. 

Eternal Truth in Changing Human Language 

The basis for today's linguistic and cultural diversity resides in 
God's judgment at the tower of Babel. God purposefully diversified 
man's language and as a result the people scattered over the whole 
earth (Gen 11:7-9; cf. also 10:31). Since then, of course, languages 
have continued to diversify and develop, according to the degree of 
isolation of people groups. 

Observing the relationship between language and culture, some 
have advanced the idea that language, as it changes and develops 
within any given culture, cannot be the vehicle of eternal, unchanging 
truth. Propositional revelation is not seen as absolute, universal truth, 
but as relative to culture. Curtis supports this position by the obser- 
vations that every language offers its "speakers and interpreters a 
ready-made interpretation of the world" and that every language 
changes over time. But Curtis supposes that once universal and 
unchanging truth has become embedded in human language, this 
truth must change along with the language. 

Clark, Religion, Reason, and Revelation, 131. 

It is true that one can distinguish a great variety in the levels of communication 
of different species, from chemical to instinctive to cognitive. These levels, though, do 
not necessarily imply evolutionary progress. They merely show that the various species 
have an adequate communication system that enables its members to interact with one 

76 Packer, "The Adequacy of Human Language," 214. 
"Curtis, "Language and Theology," 104. 

barentsen: the validity of human language 39 

But it is wrong to assume that a vehicle must alter its contents. 
Our language is quite different from that spoken in biblical times, and 
this certainly implies the need for sound exegesis to uncover the truth 
couched in ancient language. But the biblical writers seem not to 
consider this an insurmountable problem. Paul states in Rom 15:4 
that the whole OT is relevant for our instruction. Even in Paul's day 
that document was centuries old. Yet he did not see the slightest need 
to adjust his claim about the usefulness of the OT. 78 

God's judgment at Babel directly addresses this situation: 

It is God who is responsible for the linguistic diversity springing from 
Babel, and it was obviously not his purpose to frustrate his own 
"stream of true prophetic interpretation" which he introduced into the 
world, (emphasis original) 79 

God evidently expects us to grasp and act on his word. Therefore, 
from the divine perspective, there is no great trouble in communicat- 
ing divine eternal truth in changing human language. 

God's Perfect Accommodation to Human Language 

Some theologians suggest that, in order to communicate with 
man, God had to accommodate himself to man to such an extent that 
his communication manifests the inevitable error and mutability of 
human language. After all. we may argue that God originated lan- 
guage, but he also allowed sinful man to be (sinfully) creative in 
language. 80 So is it not necessary for God to indulge this corruption? 

Obviously not! When Moses asked to see God's glory (Exod 
33:18ff.), he only saw God's back (v 23). The problem was not God's 
ability to show his glory to sinful man, but man's capacity to behold 
God's glory in full. God could not communicate his full glory to frail 
creatures like man, because it would mean instant death. Similarly, 
God condescends in his verbal communication with man by accom- 
modating to man's finite capacity for understanding. The problem lies 
not only with the limits of language, but also with the limits of the 
human mind. 

Later in history God showed his glory to mankind through 
Christ in the incarnation (John 1:14). This involved some measure of 
accommodation without setting aside his divinity (Phil 2:6-8). But if 

78 See J. M. Frame, "Scripture Speaks For Itself," in God's Inerrant Word (ed. 
J. W. Montgomery; Minneapolis: Bethany Fellowship, Inc., 1974) 190. 

79 D. B. Farrow, "The Inerrancy Issue in Methodological and Linguistic Per- 
spective" (unpublished M.Div. thesis, Grace Theological Seminary, 1980), 130. See also 
V. S. Poythress, "Adequacy of Language and Accommodation" (paper delivered at the 
International Council on Biblical Inerrancy Summit II, November 1982). 

80 See Martin, "Special Revelation as Objective," 70. 


Christ is truly the Word of God become flesh, then he did not 
accommodate himself to human form in any of its sinfulness. Christ 
did not sin (1 Pet 2:22) and therefore his accommodation to man in 
the incarnation is perfect, without sin, yet realistic since he was truly 
a man. 82 Similarly, God can accommodate to human language and 
communicate eternal truth without admixture of error or corruption 
as commonly happens when man uses the same language. 

The Validity of Revealed Propositional Truth 

Christ's incarnation has further relevance to a biblical philosophy 
of language. Christ wholly accepted the truth of the OT. He fre- 
quently referred to it with the phrase "It is written," indicating its 
authority. "He relied on propositional statements to convey truth in 
and of themselves and to convey it accurately." Christ submitted to 
the authority of the Scripture, interpreting it in terms of propositional 
truth: "Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter 
his glory?" (Luke 24:26). Thus, Scripture imposed a necessity upon 
Christ. 84 

Christ also demonstrated his stronger view of Scripture when he 
rebuked the Pharisees for their unbelief, since they did not believe the 
things Moses had written about him (John 5:45-47). Christ's attitude 
toward the OT was one of complete trust. He did not doubt that God 
had spoken, and that he had spoken intelligibly. He believed that the 
OT itself was God's word. His insistence upon the authority of even a 
form of a word (Matt 5:18; 22:32) showed that he believed it to be 
true down to the very words it employed. 

In spite of this evidence, some believe that God could not 
address us in terms of propositions that are true. But note further 
that Jesus did speak in intelligible language: 85 "the common people 
heard Him gladly" (Mark 12:37). Clearly, several contemporary views 
of religious language become problematic on the basis of the incarna- 
tion alone. 

Still others argue that to concentrate on Jesus' teaching is to 
miss the point, because we are to be concerned with Jesus as a 
person. Yet, our Lord himself emphasized repeatedly the necessity of 

81 See Clark, Karl Barth's Theological Method, 120. 

82 "Any linguistic theory that impoverishes language so as to separate man from 
divine discourse must attack the authenticity of the person and work of Christ himself" 
(Farrow, "The Inerrancy Issue in Methodological and Linguistic Perspective," 126). 

83 C. Ryrie, What You Should Know About Inerrancy (Chicago: Moody, 1981) 77. 

84 Frame, "Scripture Speaks For Itself," 188. 

85 Clark, Karl Barth's Theological Method, 132. 

86 See our earlier analysis of philosophical trends involved in this issue. 

barentsen: the validity of human language 41 

accepting his words if we love him. The criterion by which one 
knows whether the person of Christ is accepted is to see whether his 
words are accepted and obeyed. There is an intimate relationship 
between propositions and the person of Christ: both are necessary for 
true discipleship. Propositions are the impetus for discipleship. A 
relationship with the person of Christ is the essence of discipleship. 

Christ evidently never doubted that supernatural truth could be 
conveyed by means of propositions. He believed that God uses 
language to convey information, even about the supernatural world. 

The Authority of Revealed Propositional Truth 

Many have tried to divorce the authority of God's word from its 
truthfulness. Barth, for instance, maintained that Scripture still had 
authority over the Christian's life, even though its propositions were 
not regarded as inerrant. However, "Biblical authority is an empty 
notion unless we know how to determine what the Bible means." 88 
God cannot impose absolute demands on us without clearly stating 
these demands. Therefore, the marriage of absolute authority with 
propositional truth is unavoidable if one is to maintain a clear 
perception of the nature of Christianity. 

Historically, Christianity has well understood these things. It has 
always pointed to its written revelation as the authoritative source for 
faith and practice. Paul (2 Tim 3:16) and Peter (2 Pet 1:20-21) 
proclaimed the divine origin of these writings. 90 If this record is 
indeed God's record, then it carries his truth, his authority, and his 



But more than that, when one considers the biblical data it 
becomes plain that the Bible itself never makes a distinction between 
truthfulness and authority. Whenever God's authority is expressed, it 
is connected with his word, whether spoken or written. A sampling of 
some biblical statements will suffice to demonstrate the point. 

Gen 26:5 says that God blessed Abraham "'because Abraham 
obeyed me and kept my requirements, my commands, my decrees and 
my laws.'" What are these requirements, commands, decrees and 

87 Matt 7:24-29; Luke 8:21; 9:26; John 5:21, 38; 8:31, 37, 47, 51, 55; 10:27; 12:47- 
50; 14:15, 21, 23-24; 15:7, 10, 14; 17:6, 8, 17; 18:37. Cf. also 1 John 2:3-5; 3:22; 5:2-3; 
2 John 6; 2 Tim 6:3; Rev 12:17; 14:12. See Henry, God, Revelation, and Authority, 
3:484, and Frame, "Scripture Speaks For Itself," 184. 

Farrow, "The Inerrancy Issue in Methodological and Linguistic Perspective," 132. 
P. D. Feinberg, "The Meaning of Inerrancy," in Geisler, Inerrancy, 285. 

90 N. B. Stonehouse, "The Authority of the New Testament," in The Infallible 
Word (ed. N. B. Stonehouse and P. Woolley; Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and 
Reformed, 1978) 107. 

91 Frame, "Scripture Speaks For Itself," 195. 


laws? It would seem that they refer to God's promises as in Genesis 
12, 15, 17 and other places. Abraham, therefore, accepted God's 
words and obeyed him. 

Exod 24:7, "Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it 
to the people. They responded, 'We will do everything the Lord has 
said; we will obey.'" But notice that they had not heard the Lord 
speak; they had only heard Moses read from a book. Yet the people 
obeyed, because they knew that these written words carried no less 
authority than if the Lord himself had spoken to them. 

Exod 24:12, "' . . . the law and commands I have written for 
their instruction.'" The instruction again is concerned with written 
words. In this case, the Lord himself did the writing! 

Exod 31:11, "'They are to make them just as I commanded 
you.'" Bezalel and Oholiab were to manufacture the appliances that 
were to be placed in the Tent of Meeting. The plan according to 
which they were to be made was given by God. If this plan was not in 
plain, ordinary language, how could the workers have known what to 
make? This kind of plan had to be fairly precise; otherwise there 
would have been no plan at all. 

Another important concept is the covenant. This was a written 
document setting forth the terms of a treaty between a suzerain and 
his vassal. In Israel the written document was to serve as a witness 
against the Israelites (Deut 31:26). Other passages warn against 
subtracting from this covenant. 94 The emphasis is again on the 
written word and its authority. 

Deut 6:17 admonishes, "Be sure to keep the commands of the 
Lord your God and the stipulations and decrees He has given you." 
Here we see that God's people are called back to his written word. 95 

In Matt 5:18 our Lord said, "'I tell you the truth, until heaven 
and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of the 
pen will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is 
accomplished.'" "The indissolubility of the law extends to its every 
jot and tittle," and is clearly interwoven with a written document. 

Matt 22:32, " . . . T am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, 
and the God of Jacob?' He is not the God of the dead but of the 
living." The argument here depends on the very form of the verb "to 
be." So God's word is clearly identified with the written record. 

"Frame, "Scripture Speaks for Itself," 186. 

93 Ibid. See Exod 31:18; 32:10; 34:1; Deut 4:1; 9:10f.; 10:2-4. 

94 Deut 4:2; 12:32. Cf. Prov 30:6; Rev 22:18. See Frame, "Scripture Speaks For 
Itself," 187 and E. J. Young, "The Authority of the Old Testament," in The Infallible 
Word, 67. 

95 Frame, "Scripture Speaks For Itself," 188. See Deut 4:1-8; 5:27-33; 6:24f.; 7:9- 
11; 8:11; etc. 

96 J. Murray, "The Attestation of Scripture," in The Infallible Word, 22. 

barentsen: the validity of human language 43 

References can of course be multiplied, but the point is clear. 
God's word is identified with the written record, and this written 
record carries God's authority. To obey the record is to obey God; to 
disobey the record is to disobey God. 97 God's authority cannot be 
divorced from his written revelation. This written revelation must be 
clear to be authoritative. Hence, revealed propositions carry the same 
authority as if God had spoken directly in an audible voice. 


At the outset it was observed that the debate concerning the 
adequacy of human language arose in the context of contemporary 
philosophical analysis. The problem of religious language was in- 
timately bound up with a sceptical view of religious knowledge. Our 
discussion of Hume, Kant, Barth and others yielded the insight that 
doubts about the adequacy of religious language were rooted in an 
empirical theory of knowledge. This empirical basis of epistemology 
did not leave room for meaningful religious language. Even Kant's 
and Barth's attempts to restore some validity to religious language 
essentially failed. Therefore, most philosophers and even many theo- 
logians rejected religious language as an adequate vehicle of divine, 
inerrant truth; they rejected the biblical view of revelation. However, 
they were operating in the arena of philosophical analysis, not in the 
arena of biblical reflection. 

Operating within the biblical arena we uncovered no objection to 
religious language. Instead, we found that without a doubt biblical 
data supported inerrant, divine communication to man by way of 
human language. God created man in his own image, so man has the 
necessary faculties to communicate intelligibly with his Creator. 
Language, therefore, can legitimately speak about the supernatural. 
Moreover, God originated human language, even in all its diversity, 
and uses those languages to communicate unchanging eternal truth. 
God's accommodation to human language does not involve error and 
so the truth and authority of propositional revelation are upheld, 
whether the communication is verbal or written. 

The Bible, therefore, teaches that human language is an adequate 
vehicle to communicate divine truth. As long as one submits to the 
framework of biblical revelation, there is an adequate foundation 
for biblical thinking about the role of language in communication 
between God and man. In the face of the evidence discussed above, 
only unbelief would turn from propositional revelation to some other 
view of language, perhaps as dictated by currents in contemporary 

97 Young, "The Authority of the Old Testament," 67. 

Grace Theological Journal 9. 1 (1988)45-58 


Richard D. Patterson and Michael E. Travers 

Exegesis that includes careful attention to internal matters — 
theme and development, structure, and features of literary style — can 
help resolve perennial problems of interpretation. One such difficulty 
involves the unity and authorship of the book of Nahum. Conclu- 
sions reached from the shared contributions of biblical and literary 
data argue strongly for the unity of the whole prophecy that bears 
Nahum 's name. The literary devices are so demonstrably a necessary 
and integral part of the theme and structure of the work that this 
book is best viewed as the production of a single author whose 
literary skill and artistry rival those of any of the OT prophets. 


Most modern higher critical interpreters conclude that of 
Nahum's forty-seven verses, at least one-third are spurious. 
Critics are generally agreed in denying Nahum's authorship of parts 
of the title, the "acrostic poem" at 1:2-10,' the "hopeful sayings" of 
1:12-13; 2:1, 3, and the closing dirge at 3:18-19. 2 Thus, literary 
analysis of Nahum has often been attended by the uniform denial of 
the unity of the book. 3 

Although conservative scholars have defended the disputed por- 
tions of the book, 4 little has been done to demonstrate its essential 

'All textual references follow the standard English format rather than MT which 
renders 1:15 as the first verse of chapter two, making fourteen verses in the Hebrew 
rather than the thirteen of the English editions. 

2 For details, see J. A. Bewer, The Literature of the Old Testament, 3rd ed. (New 
York: Columbia University Press, 1962) 147; and J. M. P. Smith, A Critical and 
Exegetical Commentary on Micah, Zephaniah and Nahum (ICC, Edinburgh: T. & T. 
Clark, 1985) 268-70. 

See, for example, R. H. Pfeiffer, Introduction to the Old Testament (New York: 
Harper, 1941) 594-95; and G. A. Smith, The Book of the Twelve Prophets, Rev. Ed. 
(New York: Doubleday, 1929), 2:81-88. 

In addition to the various conservative commentaries, note the discussion in 
R. K. Harrison, Introduction to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1969) 


unity on purely internal grounds. 5 By focusing primarily on the 
literary aspects of Nahum's prophecy— its theme and development, its 
basic structure, and its stylistic features— it will be shown that Nahum 
is the work of a single author. The appropriateness of such a point of 
inquiry, besides being a natural part of the investigative process, is 
underscored by Nahum's generally recognized high literary artistry. 
Thus Bewer remarks: "Nahum was a great poet. His word-pictures 
are superb, his rhetorical skill is beyond praise . . ." 6 , and J. M. P. 
Smith points out, 

Though the rhythm and metre of Nahum are not so smooth and 
regular as is the case with some Heb. prophets, yet in some respects the 
poetry of Nahum is unsurpassed in the OT. His excellence is not in 
sublimity of thought, depth of feeling, purity of motive, or insight into 
truth and life. It is rather in his descriptive powers. He has an unex- 
celled capacity to bring a situation vividly before the mind's eye. 
Accurate and detailed observation assists in giving his pictures veri- 
similitude. Lowth rightly said, "Ex omnibus minoribus prophetis nemo 
videtur aequare sublimitatem, ardorem et audaces spiritus Nahumi . . ." 7 

Although these remarks refer to the portions of Nahum considered to 
be authentic, this same high literary quality characterizes the entire 


A casual reading of the prophecy reveals that Nahum deals with 
the destruction of Nineveh. Yet behind the opening pronouncement 
and subsequent shifting scenes of Nineveh's doom, lies a deeper, 
double truth: God is the sovereign judge (ch. 1) and controller (chs. 

928-30; P. A. Verhoef, "Nahum, Book of," ZPEB, 4:356; and C. H. Bullock, An 
Introduction to the Old Testament Prophetic Books (Chicago: Moody, 1986) 218-21. 

5 Note, however, the helpful observations of H. D. Hummel, The Word Becoming 
Flesh (St. Louis: Concordia, 1979) 339-42; C. E. Armerding, Nahum (EBC, Grand 
Rapids: Zondervan, 1985), 7:453; and R. J. Coggins, Israel Among the Nations (Grand 
Rapids: Eerdmans, 1985) 6-8. 

6 Bewer, Literature, 148. 

7 J. M. P. Smith, Nahum, 273-74. See also P. C. Craigie, Twelve Prophets 
(Philadelphia: Westminster, 1985), 2:59, who affirms that the author of Nahum was a 
"poet of considerable ability and originality"; and Hummel, Word, 339, who observes, 
"It is everywhere agreed that stylistically Nahum easily heads the list of the minor 
prophets, excelling even Amos, and himself excelled in all Biblical literature only by 
Isaiah. Many of his deft, vivid, word-pictures are fully worthy of Isaiah himself. Some 
of their forcefulness is evident, even in translation, but much is inevitably also lost. 
Pfeiffer calls Nahum, 'the last of the great classical Hebrew poets,' and G. A. Smith 
observes that bis rhythm 'rumbles and rolls, leaps and flashes, like the horsemen and 
chariots that he describes.' Similar encomiums could easily be multiplied." 


2-3) of the destiny of earth's peoples. The book of Nahum deals with 
not only the doom of Nineveh at the hands of a just judge (ch. 1), but 
with a prophetic description of that city's destruction resulting from 
the operation of the divine government presided over by a wise 
controller of the affairs of mankind (chs. 2-3). Several subthemes also 
reinforce the purpose of the main theme, such as the revelation of the 
many facets of God's character, and the salvation and restoration of 
God's people Israel. 

Chapter One centers on the declaration of Nineveh's doom while 
calling attention to God himself as a sovereign and just judge. The 
theme of the chapter is stated in the threefold repetition of the name 
Yahweh in the four lines of affirmation concerning God's avenging 
wrath. The reader's attention is thus drawn to a sovereign and just 
God who deals in judgment with the ungodly (1:2). This clear delinea- 
tion of the theme of the first section of the book (ch. 1) is sub- 
sequently qualified in a twofold hymn to Yahweh (see Literary 
Features below) concerning the character and work of God: (1) 
although the Lord is long suffering he will assuredly judge the guilty 
with all the force that a sovereign God can muster (1:3-6); and (2) 
although the Lord is good and he tenderly cares for the righteous 
(particularly in times of affliction), he will destroy those who plot 
against him (1:7-10). These general remarks concerning the character 
and work of God are then applied directly to the current situation; 
Nineveh, the plotter and afflicter of God's people, will experience the 
just judgment of God, while a previously punished Judah will know 
relief from affliction and be restored to peace and joy (1:11-15). 

The second section immediately repeats the theme of the judg- 
ment of Nineveh and the restoration of God's people (2:1-2). But in 
doing so, it is clear that the primary focus will be on a description of 
the actual siege and destruction of the doomed city. That theme is 
immediately carried forward in a visionary rehearsal of the actual 
attack against Nineveh (2:3-10), closed by a taunt song in which 
Assyria is compared to a lion trapped in Nineveh, its own den (2:11- 
13). The theme is developed further in a second description of the fall 
of Nineveh (given in the form of a pronouncement of woe), but with 
distinctive emphasis upon the reasons for Nineveh's fall, particularly 
its rapacity (3:1-7). This section, too, is closed by a taunt song in 
which Nineveh is declared to be no better than mighty Thebes. She 
had counted on the same basic defensive features that Nineveh boasts; 
yet her recent fall is known to all. Nineveh's fate is certain: a sovereign 
God is about to judge the Assyrians and Nineveh for their boundless 
cruelty (3:8-19). 

A proper reading of Nahum, then, shows that there is an essen- 
tial unity to the entire book. Indeed, as C. Hassell Bullock affirms, 


even the highly disputed "acrostic portion" of the first chapter "cer- 
tainly is in harmony with the tenor of the book, and it beautifully 
prepares the stage for the major theme of the book." Our discussion 
of the theme and development of the two major sections of Nahum 
has also shown that the author displays considerable art in the 
arrangement of his prophecies, a literary skill that makes the underly- 
ing structure readily discernible. 


The analysis of the theme and development of Nahum makes 
certain that the chapters fall into two distinct sections (1 and 2-3) in 
which the theme is first stated in each portion (1:2; 2:1-2), and then 
developed in distinct major units (1:3-10, 11-15; 2:3-10, 11-13; 3:1- 
7, 8-19). Both sections end with a report going forth. In 1:15 the 
word about Nineveh's fall is brought by a messenger bearing the good 
news; in 3:19 the news is received with rejoicing. A pattern of theme, 
development, and reaction marks each major section. The image of 
scattering marks the beginning and end of the second section (fSB/ 
'scatterer,' 2:1; and the scattered refugees from Nineveh, 3:18-19). 
Other organizational devices in chapters 2-3 include the aforemen- 
tioned closing of each unit (2, 3) with a taunt song (2:11-13; 3:8-19), 
and the inactivity/ activity of messengers (2:13b; 3:19). 

The book of Nahum, therefore, is arranged in a basic bifid 
structure: 1:2-15; 2:1-3:19. The resultant structural scheme may be 
outlined as follows: 

Superscription 1:1 

The Doom of Nineveh The Demise of Nineveh 

Declared (1:2-15) Described (2:1-3:19) 

Theme: Theme: 

God is a God of Justice who will God is a Just Governor of the 

Bullock, Prophetic Books, 220. C. F. Keil, Biblical Commentary on the Minor 
Prophets (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1955), 2:4 maintains that all three chapters are 
genuine and contain "one extended prophecy concerning Nineveh," which is "depicted 
with pictorial liveliness and perspicuity." 

9 The principle of literary bookending as a compilational technique is well attested 
in the Scriptures. One may note, for example, Ezekiel's dumbness that encloses Ezekiel 
3-24, the heading and colophon that encase Genesis 10, and the inclusion formed by 
the references to Jeremiah's birth (Jer 1:5; 20:18). Indeed, the principle of bookending 
forms an integral part of the formal literary architecture of the book of Jeremiah, a 
subject that will be addressed by R. D. Patterson in a forthcoming article in WTJ. 

l0 The concept of bifid structure as a compositional technique has been ably 
defended by W. H. Brownlee, The Meaning of the Qumran Scrolls for the Bible 
(Oxford: University Press, 1964) 236-59. 



punish the wicked and avenge his 
own (1:2). 

1. A Hymn to the Sovereign 
and Just God (1:2-10) 

a. who defeats his foes 

b. who destroys the plotters 

2. Application of the Hymn to 
Nineveh and Judah (1:11-15) 

N.B. The messenger of Good 
News for Judah (1:15) 

nations who will punish wicked 
Nineveh and restore his own 

1. First description of Nineveh's 
demise (2:3-13) 

a. Rehearsal of the attack vs. 
Nineveh (2:3-10) 

b. Taunt song: the 
discredited city (2:11-13) 

2. Second description of 
Nineveh's demise (3:1-19) 

a. Reasons for the attack vs. 
Nineveh (3:1-7) 

b. Taunt Song: the 
defenseless citadel 

N.B. The message of Good 
News for all (3:18-19) 

D. W. Gooding affirms that such types of clear organizational struc- 
ture argue for an original authorial intention, rather than for being 
the work of a later editorial redactor. 

Additional confirmation of original authorial intent may be seen 
in the demonstrable thematic and verbal hooks that link the various 
smaller units. 1 Thus, the opening statement of theme (1:2) is hooked 
to the following thematic development via the catchword "Lord" and 
the theme of divine wrath (1:3-10); the idea of plotting links 1:3-10 
with 1:11-15, and destroying binds 1:11-15 and 2:1-2. Other hooks 
link the following units: attacking (2:1-2; 2:3-10), plundering (2:3-10; 

"D. W. Gooding, "The Literary Structure of Daniel and Its Implications," TB 

12 For the principle of literary hooks, see H. Van Dyke Parunak, "Transitional 
Techniques in the Bible," JBL 102 (1983) 530-32; John Bright, Jeremiah (AB; Garden 
City; Doubleday, 1956) lxxiv; and W. McKane, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary 
on Jeremiah (ICC; Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1986) l:lxxxiv. Called also a link 
(Parunak), catchword (Bright), or stitchword (McKane), the point is, as U. Cassuto, 
Biblical and Oriental Studies (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1973) 1:228, points out, that 
hooking was a common compilational principle by which sections were arranged "on 
the basis of the association of ideas or words." Cassuto himself has demonstrated the 
widespread use of this technique by illustrating its employment in Leviticus, Numbers, 
Canticles, Isaiah, Ezekiel, and the Minor Prophets. 


2:11-13), 'chariots' and the phrase "I am against you" (2:11-13; 3:1- 
7), and death and destruction (3:1-7; 3:8-19). Still further, the impor- 
tant word H3H/ 'behold' punctuates the book at crucial points in the 
individual units (1:15; 2:13; 3:5, 13). All of this suggests an essential 
unity for the whole book of Nahum. 


Further evidence for authorial intention and the essential unity 
of the book of Nahum is the careful use of literary devices. Not only 
is there a thematic and topical structure to the book, as the pre- 
ceding data suggest, but there is also a literary richness to this short 

In Nahum, there are two literary genres, in addition to the 
oracular nature of the piece as a whole, that affect the presentation of 
the material of the book: the narrative and the poetic. Each genre has 
its own particular conventions which both writer and reader accept. 
Accordingly, each genre establishes certain expectations in the reader 
as to how the material within that genre is developed. Narrative, for 
instance, turns on the cause/ effect relationships between events in 
time, thereby establishing the later event as the result of the earlier 
event. The most directly narrative portion of the book of Nahum is 
the author's narrative of the destruction of Nineveh chronicled in 2:1- 
10. In this section, the reader anticipates a series of events, each of 
which adds to the cumulative effect (in this case) of the utter desola- 
tion of Nineveh. Poetry, on the other hand, turns on the intense and 
often elliptical relationships of words, images, tropes and rhythms. 
Poetry intensifies emotion and underscores the totality of our human- 
ness in response to a given word picture. The most obviously poetical 
sections of Nahum are the opening hymn depicting God as an avenger 
(1:1-10) and the final section of the piece, Nahum's "taunt song" of 
3:8-19. In these sections, the writer affects his reader's emotions most 
directly, thereby involving the whole humanness of the reader in a 
response to the oracle against Nineveh. 

In the first major unit of the book, the introductory Hymn of 
Praise to God (1:1-10), Nahum employs a wide variety of tropes to 

The issue of authorial intention and the possibility of a reader obtaining an 
objective interpretation of a text is a vexed one today both in biblical hermeneutics and 
in literary criticism. For the classic defense of meaning as authorial intention, see E. D. 
Hirsch, Validity in Interpretation (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1979) 27, 32, 
44-46, 127ff., 164ff., 209-12, 217, 224ff. For an important further consideration of the 
issue as it relates to biblical hermeneutics, see Anthony C. Thiselton, The Two Hori- 
zons: New Testament Hermeneutics and Philosophical Description (Grand Rapids: 
Eerdmans, 1984) 10-17, 145, 303, 315. 

For a full defense of the influence of genre in literature, see Northrop Frye, 
Anatomy of Criticism (New York: Atheneum, 1968) 13, 95-99, 111, 246-326. 


develop two specific pictures of God, one vis a vis Nineveh and one 
for Judah. Since this hymn is a poem, extensive use of tropological 
language is expected. Nahum's first trope is a metaphor: "His (God's) 
way is in the whirlwind and the storm, and clouds are the dust of his 
feet" (1:3b). This is a graphic picture of God's invincible power, his 
omnipotence; who can withstand a whirlwind, i.e., a tornado? God's 
power is further suggested by the comparison of clouds to the mere 
dust of his feet; he is indeed strong beyond imagination. The refer- 
ence to storms is appropriate in two ways. First, Yahweh is the God 
of the storm; second, the association of Yahweh with the storm may 
also be an attack on Baal, the Canaanite god of the storm, and on 
Hadad, the Assyrian god of the storm. Israel's praise of Yahweh as 
the One who controls nature is a source of terror to Nineveh, whose 
god Hadad is shown thereby to be impotent. 

The terror of God's angry approach is underscored by the image 
of 1:5: 

The mountains quake before him 

and the hills melt away. 
The earth trembles at his presence, 

the world and all who live in it. 

Here is a vivid picture of the only possible response to God's anger. 
The earth — even the mountains, a symbol of great strength — shakes 
before the mere presence of God's anger, much less the execution of 
his indignation. What can a mere city, in this case Nineveh, do to 
withstand such a force? 

To complete this first picture of God's anger, Nahum compares 
God's wrath to a fire in a simile: "His wrath is poured out like fire; 15 
the rocks are shattered before him" (1:6b). As with a whirlwind, who 
can withstand a fire so hot that it bursts rocks apart? God's anger is 
"poured out," like a liquid fire, like molten lava that consumes 
everything in its path. The whole city, not just its inhabitants, appears 
to be in danger of complete annihilation. It is through such tropes as 
the metaphor, image and simile that Nahum establishes the thorough 
destructiveness, the utter terror of God's wrath: who can withstand 

In a dramatic shift, Nahum the poet moves from God's wrath 
against Nineveh to his compassion for Judah. In a one verse con- 
trasting portrait, Nahum uses a metaphor to compare the God of 

l5 The importance of "fire" as a key word (cf. 1:6; 2:4; 3:13, 15) is emphasized by C. 
Armerding, EBC 7:451-52. Armerding suggests that "fire" and key words such as 
"consume"/ "devour" (1:10; 2:13; 3:12-13, 15 bis ), and "destroy"/ "cut down" (1:14-15; 
2:13; 3:15), as well as about a dozen strands of motifs that run through the course of 
the book, argue strongly for the thematic unity of the book. 


Judah to a refuge (1:7). While this is a typical OT and especially 
Davidic metaphor for God's protection (cf. Ps 37:37-40), it takes on 
particular poignancy in its context here. All around this picture, 
Nahum portrays the complete impending destruction of Nineveh in 
the most vivid manner. Yet here he speaks of a refuge for Judah 
specifically for the "times of trouble." What comfort to Judah! What 
amplified terror to Nineveh, to know that, since they have never 
sought God, their destruction is specific and local — their own judg- 
ment! Israel is a literary foil to Nineveh — blessed so bountifully as to 
underscore Nineveh's judgment in a poignant contrast. 

Building on this contrast, Nahum returns to the destruction of 
Nineveh, now however focusing on the inhabitants of the city (his 
foes) rather than on the might of God. In an image, the author 
depicts the Ninevites as impotent and frustrated on every hand: 

They will be entangled among thorns 

and drunk from their wine; 
they will be consumed like dry stubble. (1:10) 

Rendered defenseless because of their inebriation, the Ninevites are 
compared to dry stubble, burned immediately upon contact with any 
fire and absolutely annihilated by the lava-like fire of God's wrath. 
The metaphor within the image intensifies the pathos of the destruc- 
tion of human beings: Nineveh is not just bricks and mortar, it is a 
city of people about to be killed (a motif to which Nahum will return 
later, the innocent and the guilty). 

In the second unit of the chapter (1:11-15), Nahum quotes the 
Lord in address to Judah. This is a brief passage of comfort for 
Judah in the face of God's anger against Nineveh. It is an assurance 
that he will not extend his wrath against Judah itself. Curiously, there 
is but one trope in this short speech, a typical metaphor comparing 
the unjust oppression of Judah by Nineveh to a yoke and shackles 
(1:13). These the Lord will break and tear away. The metaphor is 
both agrarian (yoke) and urban (shackles, as in a prison), but other- 
wise it is quite conventional. Once again, Israel is a foil to Nineveh, 
comforted in the face of their terror. Nahum suggests in this con- 
ventional trope that God is self-consistent, a judge of the unrighteous- 
ness of Nineveh and a blessing to Judah/ Israel. 

In the third unit of the book, Nahum details the destruction of 
Nineveh (2:1-10). This portion is narrative in genre and therefore 
chronological in organization. However, there are a number of similes 
in this account, as well as various other tropes, which underscore the 
emotion and pathos of God's judgment and attack. Nahum begins in 
verses 3-6 with a most graphic image of the actual attackers. The 
shields are red; warriors are covered in scarlet (both presumably with 


blood); chariots "flash" and "storm." It is a picture of the frenzy of 
battle. Within the image of 2:3-6, Nahum incorporates a simile 
comparing the rapid motion of the chariots to "flaming torches" and 
"lightning" (2:4). Not only does the simile point out the chariots' 
speed and power for destruction, but it is also consistent with the 
earlier motif of God's wrath as fire. Here is one of the agents of God's 
fiery wrath, the attackers' chariots. 

It is in this narrative unit that Nahum creates one of his most 
pathetic scenes, that of the terror of the innocent people of Nineveh. 
In a simile, Nahum depicts the anguish of the innocent slave girls of 
the city as the moan of doves (2:7). The slave girls are helpless victims 
of their masters' demise. The simile evokes pathos, compassion for 
the slaves' imminent deaths. In a related device, a synecdoche, Nahum 
shows the people of Nineveh as absolutely terrified: "Hearts melt, 
knees give way, bodies tremble, every face grows pale" (2:10b). Again, 
the attention here to the civilians, not the soldiers, is particularly 
pathetic, though God's judgment is complete. Perhaps two effects 
result from depicting civilians in terror: first, Nineveh is further 
terrorized; second, Judah is comforted beyond measure. 

The climax of the narrative of Nineveh's destruction is the meta- 
phor of the lions' den in 2:11-13. Nineveh, whose insignia was a lion, 
is compared ironically to a lions' den. This den, however, is no longer 
a refuge for its cubs, no longer the lair of the powerful predator. God 
will attack the very home of the Ninevite plunderers, repaying in kind 
their earlier cruelty to their victims. The irony underlying this meta- 
phor allows Nahum to use it as a little "Taunt Song" to flaunt 
Nineveh's complete demise. 

Immediately following the narrative of Nineveh's destruction, 
Nahum pronounces a series of woes upon the doomed city (3:1-7). 
This unit eludes final generic classification, though it is closer to 
poetry than to narrative. Because of the frequent ellipses in the first 
part of this section (w. 1-4), the pronounced woes are particularly 
intense while the emotion increases. 

In the first three verses of chapter three, the writer portrays a 
number of graphic images of the impending military destruction. In 
the first image, whips crack, wheels clatter, horses gallop, and char- 
iots jolt (3:2). This opening image draws the reader's attention to the 
machines of war. The poet uses this picture to heighten the terror 
which he shows most graphically in the next image. Nahum moves 
from a scene depicting the charging chariots to a second image, a 
terrifying view of the people involved in the conflict. This image in 3:3 
is itself bifid in structure, just as the book of Nahum at large is. The 
first scene is that of the attacking cavalry, swords flashing and spears 
glittering. The attention here is on the weapons, surely a means of 


underscoring the imminent death to the Ninevites. The second scene 
in the verse is a picture of the genocide itself: the dead are piled, 
bodies are without number, so much so that the Ninevites cannot 
escape without stumbling over their fallen friends. The effect of this 
image is poignant: the attackers are merciless, and the victims are 
utterly annihilated. Intensifying the emotional impact of this com- 
plete military rout is the ellipsis maintained throughout the two 
verses. The lack of connectives increases the tempo of the scene, 
thereby suggesting the irresistible force of the attacker. 

In the concluding verses of the unit of woes, Nahum uses an 
extended simile to portray the extreme shame that Nineveh will 
experience as a result of God's judgment. He compares Nineveh to a 
harlot and a "mistress of sorceries." Guilty of spiritual prostitution 
and witchcraft, she will be utterly exposed to the contempt of the 
nations. Stripped and pelted with filth, she, not Israel, will be a 
spectacle (cf. Deut 28:37). Everyone will desert her. There is no need 
of a homily here; the intense shame and final degradation that is 
presented in the picture of Nineveh as an exposed harlot is enough. 
Nahum then carries over the emotions of shame and contempt, though 
not the metaphor, into his final section, the concluding Taunt Song. 

In the final Taunt Song (3:8-19), Nahum flaunts the utter help- 
lessness of the Ninevites. In this unit, he employs a series of brief 
tropes to finally impress Nineveh that all is indeed lost; God's judg- 
ment is irresistible and irrevocable. Curiously, Nahum relies most on 
the simile, the weakest of tropes, perhaps to suggest that all he can do 
is approximate the absolute terror and helplessness that will affect 
Nineveh. Words fail him. In 3:12, Nahum compares the Ninevite 
fortress to a ripe fig tree, readily dropping its fruit into the attackers' 
mouths. Nahum has not emphasized the plunder of gold and silver in 
the book; rather, the plunder in Nahum's account is people — innocent 
and guilty Ninevites alike. What horror this brief simile evokes! 

Nahum underscores the futility of Nineveh's attempts to defend 
themselves with a series of references to locusts. 16 Locusts, able to 
strip a field entirely of its grain, leaving the people destitute of both 
food and livelihood, are a conventional engine of divine judgment. 
Egypt in Moses' time is perhaps the most obvious recipient of this 
particular plague. Here Nahum doubles the plague of locusts in that 
he finds them inside Nineveh as well as outside. The fire and sword of 
the attackers are compared to locusts (3:15), a typical use of the 
plague of locusts coming upon the victims from the outside. But 

l6 See Joel 2:4-9 and the remarks of R. D. Patterson in EBC 7:248. For locusts 
themselves, see the helpful excursus of S. R. Driver, The Books of Joel and Amos 
(Cambridge: University Press, 1915) 84-92; and J. D. Whiting, "Jerusalem's Locust 
Plague," National Geographic Magazine 28 (1915) 518-50. 


Nahum compares some Ninevites themselves to locusts. In 3:16 the 
merchants of the city are like locusts, having robbed the city of its 
money and then fleeing, treacherously deserting the city in its final 
hour. Likewise the guards — and even the civic officials — flee like the 
locusts in the noon heat. No defense and no government! Stripped 
within and under siege from without, Nineveh stands defenseless. 
Nahum emphasizes the absolute vulnerability of Nineveh with these 
few brief similes. It is too late for Jonah's invitation to repentance. 

Literary features abound in this short prophecy. Two of the 
more important include Nahum's use of chiasmus and an acrostic 
poem. The chiasmus opens his prophecy: 

a A jealous God XiDj? Vx 

b and an avenger is Yahweh HTTP Dj731 

b' Yahweh is an avenger niTP Dj?3 

a' and Lord of wrath. non Vjn 1 ! 

That a chiasmus is intended is obvious from the familiar parallels in 
the first and fourth lines: God (Vx)/Baal, jealous/ wrath. The first 
parallel pair is a common one throughout northwest Semitic litera- 
ture; the second is particularly apropos of the relationship between 
God and Israel. Taken into formal union via the Sinaitic Covenant, 
Israel knew God's love as his special people. That love of God is often 
depicted as that of a husband jealously guarding his wife (Isa 54:5). 
Unfortunately, in her continued idolatry, Israel had proven herself an 
unfaithful and unrepentant wife (Jer 2:1-3; 5), who must accordingly 
face the righteous wrath of Yahweh (cf. Ezek 16:35-42). Thankfully, 
because God is a merciful God, when the deserved punishment has 
run its course, God will restore his repentant wife (cf. Hos 1-3) and 
turn his righteous wrath to those unbelieving nations whom he had 
used to chastise Israel/ Judah (Ezek 36:6-7; 38:18-19). 

A further nuance in the chiastic structure may lie in the use of 
ViD with nftn/ 'wrath'. In addition to being the name of the Canaanite 
storm god, the noun ba c al may refer to an owner (Exod 22:7), master 
(Isa 1:3), ruler (Isa 16:8), or husband (Deut 24:4). All of these mean- 
ings may be felt here. Because Yahweh is Israel's owner, master, and 
husband, his wrath can either be spent against her or extended on her 
behalf. By the word ba c al, Nahum could also perhaps be reporting 
that despite the rampant idolatry initiated by King Manasseh, Yahweh 
(not Ba c al) is the true Lord of the universe (cf. vv. 3b-5) who will 
deal in righteous wrath with sin and rebellion. It may also be a veiled 
attack on Hadad, the Assyrian storm god. 

17 For chiasmatic structure, see R. L. Alden, "Chiastic Psalms: A Study in the 
Mechanics of Semitic Poetry in Psalms 1-50," JETS 17 (1974) 1 1-28. 


As a further expansion in 1:2b demonstrates, the assertion that 
God is an avenger is the center of focus in Nahum's chiasmus. As a 
God of holiness and justice, God reserves the right of vengeance to 
himself (Deut 32:35, 41; Rom 12:19). However the course of history 
might seem to be unfolding, God will take proper vengeance on all 
nature of sin (Isa 63:1-4). Not only will he punish his covenant 
breaking people (Lev 26:24-25), but he will punish all his foes, 
particularly those who have dealt harshly with his chastised and 
repentant people (Isa 34:8; 61:2). Thus, the four lines are unmistak- 
ably chiasmatic. 

But this is no mere indication of Nahum's artistry; the chiasmus 
is meaningfully designed to arrest the reader's attention at the outset. 
The three figures treated in this short chiasmus, jealousy, wrath, and 
vengeance, set the theme of the book before its readers: (1) As a 
jealous God, Yahweh demands the absolute devotion that only the 
true and sovereign God deserves. (2) In his righteous wrath Yahweh 
alone can and will deal justly with all who sin as his justice dictates. 
(3) As an avenging God, Yahweh will discipline, defend, or deliver as 
his holiness demands. If indeed God's people Israel experience God's 
chastisement, how much more an unbelieving, arrogant Assyria/ 
Nineveh? Not only is this chiasmus the key to the hymn that con- 
tinues through verse 10, but to the whole prophecy. All that follows 
in both halves (1 and 2-3) of the book flows from it, a fact that 
argues further for the unity and single authorship of the book. 

Critical scholars generally have recognized in the majestic hymn 
to Yahweh (1:2-10) the skeleton of an acrostic poem, which they 
assume was added by a later editor, but in the course of its trans- 
mission, has suffered some corruption and displacement. The varying 
results arrived at by the individual scholars 18 have caused most con- 
servative commentators to reject the theory altogether. 19 However, 
the hymnic nature of verses 2-10 is undeniable and while it may be 
impossible to recover the "lost acrostic" with demonstrable certainty, 
the task may not be totally without merit. Thus Hummel remarks, 

Efforts to recover the original form of the acrostic poem have proved 
entirely futile, and some deny the existence of such an underlying 
pattern altogether. However, it does appear that the letters of the 
Hebrew alphabet can be followed fairly accurately down to lamedh. 20 

l8 See the discussion in J. M. P. Smith, Nahum, 295-97. 
Note, for example, Gleason Archer, A Survey of Old Testament Introduction 
(Chicago: Moody, 1974) 353. See also Walter A. Maier, The Book of N ahum (Grand 
Rapids: Baker, 1980) 52-62. 

20 H. D. Hummel, Word, 339. 



















































*Accomplished via text critical methods. 

If, then, rather than resorting to wild emendations and wholesale 
transpositions, one views the beginning and ending of the canonical 
poem to be deliberately weighted so as to form a distinct frame for 
the psalm, a fairly consistent picture emerges: aleph, six lines (vv. 
2-3a), beth — yodh, two lines each, and eight lines of kaph (perhaps 
to balance the six lines of aleph plus the two lines of superscription). 
The point would be that in Nahum's acrostic arrangement, the pre- 
scribed letter of the alphabet need only occur within (not necessarily 
only as the first letter of the first word; cf. zayin and yodh lines) the 
line, although in several cases there is a deliberate concatenation of 
the letter in question in the line(s) devoted to it. 21 Table 1 illustrates 
the data. 

Applying these parameters to the acrostic poem, the only sig- 
nificant problems occur at verses 4 and 7b-8a. The former is the 
major crux because no daleth occurs in MT. As the verse now reads, 
it begins and ends with VVox "be withered." That it originally was 
written as some adequate parallel root such as VVt or V?l?l rests upon 
not only the needs of the acrostic pattern, but the fact that the ancient 
versions uniformly used two different words to express the Hebrew 
word(s) in question. 22 

As for verses 7b-8a, it seems clear that the two lines are designed 
to complement the length (3/2) and structure of the teth lines: 

Good (better) is Yahweh as (than) a fortress fl^Tpb mrr 3iU 

in the day of distress >TT2 DVa 

21 Nahum's literary style displays a tendency to heap up numbers within a short 
space, for example: n/q (l:2-3a), g (1:5), s (1:15; 2:1), h (2:1), k (2:5), and m (2:1). 

22 For details, see J. M. P. Smith, Nahum, 298. For the existence of Pu D lal forms in 
Hebrew, see GKC 1|55d. 


And he knows those who seek refuge in him 13 , pn yT] 

in the overwhelming flood. "i?V ^P^? 11 

It is evident, then, that an acrostic poem may be seen in these 
verses. 23 However, in the absence of further evidence in the Hebrew 
manuscript tradition, the case for an unbroken acrostic must remain 
unproven due to the absence of a daleth in verse four. Still, the 
presence of some acrostic elements does further illustrate Nahum's 
literary abilities. 24 


Though a myriad of other devices can be found in the book of 
Nahum, among them the use of picturesque brevity, rhetorical ques- 
tions, irony, and synecdoche, these examples support two theses: 
there was a single author to the book, one who was conscious of his 
use of genre and literary devices; and Nahum used literary devices to 
accomplish certain effects, not just to decorate an otherwise plain 
statement of God's judgment. The tropes emphasize the terror to 
Nineveh and accentuate the blessings upon Judah; they evoke an 
emotional experience of the judgment of God to supplement the 
intellectual understanding that the book contains. Not only do the 
literary devices assist and enrich the understanding of the meaning of 
the text, they are the very form and context in which the meaning is 
apprehended. 25 Finally, the literary devices in the book are patterned 
to reflect the bifid thematic structure suggested earlier. 

In short, the literary devices are a necessary and integral part of 
the theme and structure of the book of Nahum, not merely a means 
of enhancing an otherwise mundane propositional statement. Because 
they are basic to the expression of Nahum's message, they demand 
that the reader respond in his totality as a human being, not just 

23 That there are copyists' errors in MT is certain, as recognized by biblical scholars 
of all persuasions. See, for example, J. Barton Payne, "The Validity of Numbers in 
Chronicles," JNEAS 11 (1978) 5-58; and E. Wurthwein, The Text of the Old Testa- 
ment, 4th ed. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979) 105-10. However, no essential doctrine 
is in any way impaired by these relatively few examples of textual corruption, and the 
essential trustworthiness of the Scriptures remains unassailable! 

" One may hold that Nahum himself may have composed the hymn of praise or 
may have adapted it from earlier material. 

" 5 For the statement that metaphor, as an example of a trope, constitutes meaning, 
see Paul Ricoeur, "The Metaphorical Process as Cognition, Imagination, and Feeling," 
On Metaphor, ed. Sheldon Sacks (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979) 141-57. 
Ricoeur's thesis is that metaphor creates meaning, rather than embellishing it. 

Grace Theological Journal 9. \ (1988) 59 72 


Stephen R. Spencer 

Biblical data on God's self- disclosure through his creation clearly 
confirms the validity of natural revelation. Some apologists, however, 
advocate a natural theology that is derived from natural revelation. 
They argue that the unconverted can be introduced to God through 
natural theology. 

The arguments for natural theology, however, are without bibli- 
cal support. Natural theology is not a corollary of natural revelation, 
there are no examples of it in Scripture, and there is no biblical 
warrant for it, whether revelational, anthropological, or apologetic. 

The long-running debate over apologetic method between evi- 
dentialism and presuppositionalism (particularly of the Van Tilian 
variety) involves a wide range of issues. Out of that broad spectrum 
of dispute, it is sometimes difficult to demarcate precisely the dividing 
line between the two sides. It is even more difficult to find the source 
of that line of division. The issue of natural theology, however, 
should be recognized as the watershed of these two apologetic 
methods. 1 


Though natural theology has been variously defined, 2 two basic 
definitions are noteworthy. First, natural theology denotes the develop- 
ment of an entire theological system without reference to revelation. 
This sense seems equivalent to natural religion, of which deism is a 
classic example. No known evangelical espouses this type of natural 

'i have argued elsewhere that contrary to the current consensus the two sides do 
not divide over the use of evidence or over engaging in argumentation with unbelievers 
("Fideism and Presuppositionalism," GTJ 8:1 [March 1987] 89-99), nor over the 
common ground between believers and unbelievers ("Common Ground," Mid-Western 
Regional Meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society, 1983). 

2 For example, J. V. Langmead Casserley identifies four senses: Graceful Reason 
(London: Longmans and Green, 1955) 2-5. 


theology, and several explicitly reject it while espousing another 
type. 3 

The second meaning of natural theology differs significantly from 
the first meaning. Some propose that natural theology is the establish- 
ment of the existence and to some degree the character of God 
without recourse to revelation. A recent reference work in philosophy 
defines it as "the attempt to prove the existence of God, and some- 
times human immortality too, from premises provided by observation 
of the ordinary course of nature." The article goes on to distinguish 
this from revealed theology which concerns itself with "the contents 
and implications" of God's revelation of Himself. Similarly, a recent 
theological dictionary states that natural theology is "traditionally 
that knowledge about God and the divine order which man's reason 
can acquire without the aid of revelation." The article attributes to 
this position the distinction between natural and revealed theology. It 
defines natural theology as "rational reflection on the question of 
divine existence." 6 

Helm defines natural theology in this way: 

By "natural theology" (or sometimes "rational theology") is meant the 
procedure of establishing or making probable certain theological pro- 
positions about the existence and character of God, from premises of a 
non-theological character. Not only non-theological, however, but also 
premises the truth of which is acceptable to any (or almost any) 
rational man. 7 

A recent treatment differs slightly from these definitions. While 
the foregoing examples implicitly or explicitly contrast natural and 
revealed theology, Sproul, Gerstner, and Lindsley claim a compati- 
bility between revelation and natural theology. 

Simply stated, natural theology refers to knowledge of God acquired 
through nature. Classically, natural theology does not stand in contra- 
diction to divine revelation nor does it exclude such revelation. In fact, 
natural theology is dependent upon divine revelation for its content. 8 

3 For example, Gary Habermas, The Resurrection of Jesus: An Apologetic (Grand 
Rapids: Baker, 1980) 148-50; and R. C. Sproul, John Gerstner, and Arthur Lindsley, 
Classical Apologetics (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984) 25. 

"Anthony Flew, ed., A Dictionary of Philosophy, 2nd ed. (New York: St. Martin's, 

5 Alan Richardson and John Bowden, ed.. The Westminster Dictionary of Chris- 
tian Theology (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1983) 393. 

6 Ibid. 

7 Paul Helm, The Divine Revelation (Westchester, IL: Crossway, 1982) 9. 

8 Sproul, Gerstner, Lindsley, Classical Apologetics, 25. 

spencer: is natural theology biblical? 61 

This is later restated: "Natural theology refers to a knowledge of God 
acquired from God's revelation of Himself in nature." 9 

If "revelation" in the earlier definitions of this second category is 
replaced with "special revelation" or "Scriptural revelation," the 
disparity disappears. Natural theology makes no use of Scripture, but 
it does insist that at least some of the aspects of reality indicate the 
existence and character of God. 

In this second meaning of natural theology, "natural" seems to 
refer to (1) the location of the revelation (the natural environment), 
and (2) the non-Scriptural character of this theological activity. It 
also seems to refer to (3) the natural condition of the human being 
apart from redemptive grace inasmuch as this grace of the Spirit is 
communicated only through the Word of God. While many natural 
theologians are regenerate, natural theology does not require the 
redemptive transformation of the practitioner. Natural theology, thus, 
is the elaboration of an entire theology by reason apart from revela- 
tion, or the establishment of the existence of the true God by reason, 
as natural revelation is studied without recourse to special revelation. 

The second meaning of natural theology intends to establish for 
unbelievers the existence and, to some extent, the character of God 
from the unbeliever's perspective. Though the believer clearly affirms 
God and Scripture, for the purposes of the argument he puts that 
aside and works from the stance and the standards of the unbeliever. 
This type of natural theology involves no authoritative reference to or 
dependence upon the existence, character, or activity of God. To do 
so would be to work, not from the unbeliever's perspective, but from 
the believer's. 

Common to both conceptions of natural theology is the refusal 
to use Scripture in the argumentation. In sharp contrast to this is a 
type of theistic argument which uses revelation as interpreted by 
Scripture. That is, using the Scriptural depiction of nature, an 
argument would present a view of the human race's environment to 
an unbeliever. This type of theistic argument is presented from the 
perspective of the believer as a representation of how he or she views 
the world. In Helm's words, this position asserts that 

. . . the rational or natural "proofs" of God's existence are rational 
reconstructions based on the concept of God derived from the Christian 
Scriptures ... If such a view could be sustained then presumably the 
function of the proofs would be to extend knowledge that God exists 

9 Ibid., 26. 

10 Ontological arguments perhaps are an exception to this dependence upon a 
revelatory reality. 


to those either without the benefit of special revelation or who had 
rejected it. 11 

This is an affirmation and use of natural revelation which is quite 
distinct from natural theology. It thus represents a creative alternative 
to the Barth-Brunner debate which seemed erroneously to assume 
that natural theology was the unavoidable consequence of an ac- 
knowledgment of a clear natural revelation. " There seems to be no 
reason to assume that God's self-disclosure in the created order 
is intended to be interpreted independently of God's verbal self- 
disclosure. On the contrary, the biblical pattern seems to be that 
"God's Word (whether oral or written) interprets God's world." This 
is true even in the Garden of Eden where holy humans in an 
unmarred environment "lived by every word that proceeded from the 
mouth of God." Whether this pattern holds true for the rest of 
Scripture is the subject of the next section of this paper. For now, it is 
sufficient to point out that natural revelation and natural theology are 
not necessarily correlative concepts (though, of course, they are not 
necessarily incompatible either). It is perfectly plausible to grant a 
disclosure by God in the creation and to deny that it is permissible to 
elaborate a theology, however limited in scope, by natural reason 
alone. Natural revelation and natural theology, after all, are per- 
formed by different agents: God reveals himself while humans 

In short, God has disclosed himself in the created order (natural 
revelation), and he intends for his people to develop a theology of 
nature, i.e., a Scriptural perspective upon the created order, whether 
this takes the form of an ecological program of action or a theistic 
argument displaying God's existence and character to an unbeliever. 
However, the existence of this natural revelation does not imply that it 
is intended to be treated independently. Support for a natural theology 
must be sought elsewhere than in the doctrine of natural revelation. 


In addition to the assertion of the correlative relationship between 
natural revelation and natural theology, natural theology is defended 
on the grounds of its inclusion in the biblical record. Two accounts 
seem central: Paul and Barnabas at Lystra (Acts 14:8-18) and Paul at 
the Areopagus (Acts 17:16-34). 

"Helm, Divine Revelation, 12. 

"Karl Barth's (and to a lesser extent Emil Brunner's) failure to distinguish the 
question of natural theology from the question of natural revelation is a prime reason 
for the frustrating nature of their dispute in Natural Theology (London: Geoffrey Bles, 

spencer: is natural theology biblical? 63 


At Lystra, Paul healed a man who had been listening to him 
preach the gospel. From this, the residents concluded that Paul and 
Barnabas were the Greek gods, Hermes and Zeus, and they prepared 
to sacrifice to them. The apostles rushed to prevent this sacrilege, 
explaining their true identity. Not gods but messengers of the living 
God, Paul and Barnabas had come to "preach the gospel" in order 
that these people might worship, not vain things, but the living God 
"Who made the heaven and the earth and sea and all that is in them" 
(v 15). This God was patient and long-suffering with the wickedness 
of men, having withheld judgment from them. Instead, he continually 
witnessed to them of his existence in doing good to them by giving 
rain and harvests which physically and emotionally filled them. 

It seems clear from this passage that Paul and Barnabas are 
doing a theology of nature and not a natural theology. First, the 
background for their statements in vv 15-17 is their preaching of the 
gospel. They do not change their perspective in this next stage (note 
the verb z\xiyyzk\C,6\izvoi in v 15). Second, a portion of their state- 
ment is a direct quotation from Exod 20:11. Moreover, they seem to 
be announcing unknown truths to these people. Rather than assuming 
a common epistemic stance, they differentiate between their knowl- 
edge and their audience's lack of knowledge. 

Though the passage does not rule out natural theology, it at least 
is unsupportive of it. Though the people of Lystra had lived their 
entire lives surrounded by God's witness to himself by his generous 
gifts, they did not seem to have profited from it. In their natural 
condition, surrounded by God's witness in the natural environment as 
viewed naturally, i.e., apart from Scripture, they did not affirm and 
worship the true God. They even misunderstood the sign-miracles 
and message of the servants of the true God. In their case, a truthful 
natural theology was not an obvious corollary of natural revelation. 


Paul's address to the Athenian philosophers in session at the 
Areopagus is probably the most often discussed apologetic incident in 
Scripture. For many, this passage is paradigmatic for apologetics in 
its use of natural theology. 13 Accordingly, Paul attempted to establish 
the truth of Christianity by starting from propositions affirmed by the 
Athenian philosophers. These propositions included some drawn 
from observation of the natural order. These Athenians had already 
begun the elaboration of a truthful natural theology. Paul's goal was 

l3 See e.g., Habermas, The Resurrection of Jesus, 13, 170-71. 


to lead them on further in that task and then to connect this theology 
with the historical message of the Gospel. Inasmuch as the Athenians 
did not know or accept Scripture, Paul omitted reference to it, using 
instead Greek philosophy, the natural order, and history. 

This is a common interpretation of this passage in support of 
natural theology, but it is erroneous. 14 The address summarized in 
Acts 17:22-31 was not the beginning of Paul's activity in Athens. 
Rather, it was an explanatory speech in response to queries by those 
who heard Paul "reasoning in the synagogue with the Jews and the 
God-fearing Gentiles, and in the marketplace every day with those 
who happened to be present" (v 17). Paul sought not to introduce the 
truth to these men, but rather to explain that to which they had 
already been introduced. It would seem to follow that his method has 
not changed from the earlier to the later discussions. The earlier 
reasoning was apparently a typical Pauline advocacy of the Gospel to 
idolators (see, e.g., 1 Thess 1:2-10). The later explanation would not 
need a change in epistemic warrant (i.e., natural reason instead of 

Paul selected an inscription from one of Athens's many altars as 
the topical point of contact. "While I was passing through and 
examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this 
inscription, 'TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.' What therefore you worship 
in ignorance, this I proclaim to you" (v 23). Paul had already 
described his audience as SeiaiSaiuoveaxspoix; (v 22). The word can 
mean either "very religious" or "very superstitious" depending upon 
the context; perhaps Paul was intentionally ambiguous or ironic. The 
Athenians had manifested their ardent religiosity (which in fact 
amounted to no more than superstition) by including among their 
many altars one which was dedicated to "the Unknown God." This 
was apparently to prevent an omission due to oversight or ignorance. 
Paul took this as an admission of at least partial ignorance or 
uncertainty and addressed this need. He announced his intention to 

See the extensive literature on this passage including F. F. Bruce, The Book of 
Acts (New International Commentary; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1954) 348-65; idem. 
The Defense of the Gospel in the New Testament, rev. ed. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 
1977) 39-49; idem, Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 
1977) 235-47; Bertil Gartner, The Areopagus Speech and Natural Revelation (Uppsala: 
C. W. Gleerup, 1955); I. Howard Marshall, The Acts of the Apostles (Grand Rapids: 
Eerdmans, 1980) 281-91; H. P. Owen, NTS 5 (1958-59) 133-43; Ned B. Stonehouse, 
Paul before the Areopagus (London: Tyndale, 1951). For a somewhat different view, 
see Stephen G. Wilson, The Gentiles and the Gentile Mission in Luke- Acts (Cambridge: 
Cambridge University, 1973) 196-218, and also C. K. Barrett, "Paul's Speech on the 
Areopagus" in New Testament Christianity For Africa and the World, ed. M. E. 
Glasswell and E. W. Fashole-Luke (London: SPCK, 1974) 69-77. 

spencer: is natural theology biblical? 65 

proclaim (Kaxayy8A.^co) to them that which they worshiped in igno- 
rance. The apostle made a sharp distinction between his audience and 
himself. They were in ignorance while he was in the truth. What they 
needed he intended to deliver to them. Epistemic divergence, rather 
than commonality, seemed to be Paul's point. "Proclaim" is an 
unlikely word for a natural theology term; other phrasing would be 
expected to indicate the commonality of the project to establish or 
verify the issue under discussion. 15 

The point of contact that Paul chose became the theme of his 
remarks. The entire address as recorded by Luke developed the 
character of the true God. First, Paul described him as the Creator 
who was greater than man-made objects and, as self-sufficient, the 
source of life for all creation. He continued by noting the solidarity of 
the human race which God made, his sovereignty over human affairs, 
and his status as the true object of humanity's worship, to all of 
whom he was accessible because they lived by means of him. Yet this 
true object of worship was not a man-made idol, but rather was the 
exemplar whom man imaged. Finally, Paul announced that this God 
was patient, having withheld judgment thus far, but was calling for 
repentance before the day of judgment by Christ, whose uniqueness 
had been demonstrated by the resurrection. 

Paul did not build primarily upon common affirmations, leading 
the Athenians gradually to a Christian profession as a natural out- 
growth of their present beliefs. He seemed rather to be setting 
Christianity in fundamental opposition to their present beliefs (which 
of course does not imply that they knew no true religious propositions 
nor that Paul had no common affirmations with them). The first 
instance of this was the introduction which contrasted ignorance with 
knowledge. This was followed by the doctrine of creation in opposi- 
tion to the eternality of matter and the world and to the distinction 
between the supreme being and the anthropomorphic deities involved 
in earth history. The true God did not dwell in temples, but Athens 
was full of shrines for numerous gods. Paul's God had no need of 
human help in contrast to the gods of the Greek religions. 

While Greeks in general and Athenians in particular were elitists, 
claiming supremacy because of their appeal (in the case of Athens) to 
unique origins by divine action, Paul proclaimed the unity of the 
human race. Reversing the pattern of the Greek anthropomorphic 
gods, Paul proclaimed a humanity in the image of God. 

''"Proclaim" seems more indicative of evangelism or preaching than of apologetics, 
at least as typically conceived. I have wondered in recent years whether any school of 
apologetical thought can use this account as a paradigmatic defense of the faith. 
Perhaps this should rather be described as "evangelistic theologizing." 


In the context of these statements about humanity's relationship 
to God, Paul quoted at least one pagan author and perhaps a second. 
He himself identified one of these quotations pointing out a parallel to 
his assertions in the poet Aratus. Earlier in v 28, the phrase, "in him we 
live and move and exist" has been attributed to Epimenides the Cretan. 
Even these quotations did not reflect a common stance or perspective 
between Paul and his audience. Paul was accusing the Athenians of 
failing to be consistent with their own statements and was giving new 
meaning even to these statements. As Bruce says, 

It is not suggested that even Paul of Acts (let alone the Paul whom we 
know from his letters) envisaged God in terms of the Zeus of Stoic 
pantheism, but if men whom his hearers recognized as authorities had 
used language which could corroborate his argument, he would quote 
their words, giving them a biblical sense as he did so. 1 

Moreover, the quotations pertain only to a subordinate point of the 
address which argues against the view that Paul built his entire 
sermon on common beliefs. 

Paul concluded by warning that God's forebearance would soon 
end, followed by a day of judgment through a man who had been set 
apart from the rest of humanity by a special act of God's power, the 
resurrection from the dead. All of this was surely in opposition to the 
affirmations of the Greeks. 

There is another indication of the biblical rather than natural 
basis of Paul's address, i.e., the echoes of OT language. 18 God as "the 
maker of heaven and earth" is a familiar refrain in the OT; God's 
non-inhabitation of man-made shrines was asserted by Solomon 
(1 Kgs 8:27) and, perhaps more significantly for Paul, by Stephen 
(Acts 7:48-50). Ps 50:9-12 records the irrelevance of human provision 
for God. According to Deut 32:8, God established the bounds of the 
peoples. Man as the image of God and the condemnation of idolatry 
both have obvious parallels in the Hebrew Scriptures. So too does the 
call for repentance in view of the coming day of judgment. 

The conclusion is that Paul was summarizing biblical theology 
(though omitting textual or authorial citations) and setting it over 
against the views espoused by the Areopagites. This was his way of 
explaining the message which he had been arguing in the synagogue 
and the market place. The Areopagus address, therefore, does not 

1 See Bruce, Paul, 241-42; idem, The Book of Acts, 359 60, but see Gartner, The 
Areopagus Speech, 195. 

17 Bruce, Paul, 242. See also Gartner, The Areopagus Speech, 192-95, and Stone- 
house, Paul before the Areopagus, 37. 

!8 Bruce, Paul, 238-42; see also Gartner, The Areopagus Speech, 167-69. 

spencer: is natural theology biblical? 67 

support natural theology (although, again, it does not rule it out 


It seems that there are no biblical examples of natural theology; 
at least the two frequently cited passages do not qualify as natural 
theology. However, this alone does not preclude natural theology. 
After all, many things not exemplified in Scripture are nonetheless 
legitimate for Christians (e.g., heart transplants, vending machines, 
airplanes). Accordingly, the advocates of natural theology have identi- 
fied biblical teachings which authorize natural theology. 

In Its Teaching Concerning the Created Reality 
Nature Psalms 

One group of passages cited for support speak of the revelation 
of God by that which he made, sustains, and governs. For example, 
the nature Psalms (e.g., 8, 19, 29, 65, 104) are said to so emphasize 
the abundant and clear indications of God's activity that the human 
observer is made aware of him. This is true whether the person is a 
believer or an unbeliever, whether with or without the Scriptures. 

This phenomenon in the created order and the descriptions of it 
in the Psalms do not provide a basis for natural theology. The Psalms 
are set in the midst of the people of God. They are the utterances of 
God's redeemed people based upon their experiences. The psalmists 
surely are not unredeemed people nor are they believers who bracket 
their faith in order to discourse with the unredeemed. The psalmists 
seem always to be looking at life in light of their identity as children 
of God. 19 God is always in the picture, even when he seems unre- 
sponsive or distant. Life (whether joyous or sorrowful), God, and the 
redeemed seem to be a part of every psalm. 

Another element seems to be latent in this picture, i.e., the 
Scriptures. God's Word as the account of God's deeds in history and 
the created order must be seen as the foundation of the life and 
perspective of the child of God. It nourishes him, encourages him, 
corrects him, and illumines his pathways. The law or statutes of the 
Lord are never far from the psalmist's thought. This suggests that the 
psalmists would find natural theology incompatible. The psalmists 
surely have a theology of nature and just as surely believe in natural 
revelation; but they do not seem to do natural theology. 

I9 See the acknowledgment of this possibility by Bruce Demarest, General Revela- 
tion (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1982) 237. 


As argued above, the presence of natural revelation does not 
involve natural theology as a corollary. However clear may be God's 
self-disclosure through his creation, how human beings can and do 
respond to it is a distinct question, not resolvable by inference solely 
from the presence of the revelation in nature. 

Romans 1 

The previous point is central to the other scriptural passage 
frequently used by advocates of natural theology. Romans 1 addresses 
both God's self-disclosure in creation and also humanity's response. 
Two phrases indicate the revelation of God: "that which is known 
about God is evident within them" (v 19); "His invisible attributes, his 
eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being under- 
stood through what has been made" (v 20). 

Paul deals more extensively with the human response to this 
clearly seen manifestation of God. He describes it in two ways. First, 
he asserts the knowledge of God which humans have because of this 
revelation: they "suppress the truth" (v 18) which requires that they 
have apprehended it, they "understood" and "clearly perceived" the 
revelation (v 20), they "know God" (v 21), and they "knew" the 
judgment of God (v 32). 

Second, Paul characterizes humanity as not knowing God: "they 
become futile in their speculations, . . . their foolish heart was dark- 
ened" (v 21), "they become fools" (v 22), "they exchanged the truth of 
God for a lie" (v 25), "they did not approve of having God in their 
knowledge" (v 28), "God gave them over to a depraved mind" (v 29), 
and they are "without understanding" (v 31). Here the relevance of an 
examination of the meaning and interrelationship of believing and 
knowing is clear. The problem is more complex than whether or not 
unbelievers can or do "know God" or "know that there is a God." 

" See C. E. B. Cranfield, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary On the Epistle to 
the Romans (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1975, 1979) I, 104-35; C. K. Barrett, The 
Epistle to the Romans (New York: Harper & Row, 1957) 31-41; John Murray, The 
Epistle to the Romans (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1959, 1965) 34-53; Ernst Kasemann, 
Commentary on Romans (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1980) 33 52; Emil Brunner, The 
Letter to the Romans (London: Lutterworth, 1959) 16-19; Anders Nygren, Com- 
mentary on Romans (London: SCM, 1952) 98-113. For some suggested correlations 
between Romans 1 and the Fall narrative in Genesis, see D. J. W. Milne, "Genesis 3 in 
the Letter to the Romans," The Reformed Theological Review 39:1 (Jan. -April 1980) 

I am less concerned here with the precise locus of this "manifestation" which is 
"clearly seen" than with its reality (though I am inclined to concur with Beck's 
criticisms of Demarest's consideration of this passage as teaching an "effable intuition" 
which cannot be structured into a discursive demonstration. W. David Beck, review of 
Bruce Demarest, General Revelation in JETS 26:4 (December 1983) 462-64. 

spencer: is natural theology biblical? 69 

These phrases clearly establish that unbelievers are not unaware of 
the true and living God. The issue is rather what kind of knowledge 
of God they have. 

A neglected aspect of this discussion is that there are different 
forms of knowledge. Scripture does not evidence a monolithic concep- 
tion of knowledge, but rather uses the concept in a variety of senses 
(several of which overlap the different senses of belief). For this 
reason, Demarest's criticism of "persuasive definitions" in Kuyper, 
Berkouwer, and Van Til is inadequate (though it must be admitted 
that the distinctions were not clearly set forth by these men). 
Demarest's distinction between knowledge of God as Creator and 
knowledge of God as Redeemer not only inaccurately portrays 
Calvin's position, 23 it also fails as a Scriptural clarification of the 
admittedly ambiguous phrases, "true knowledge" or "pure knowl- 
edge," used by these theologians. 

The difficulty lies, at least in part, in Demarest's understanding 
of Romans 1 as portraying a straightforward progression. He sum- 
marizes his view with "three important assertions": "Mankind properly 
perceives truth about God from nature (vv 19-21), " 24 "knowledge of 
God is mediated by natural revelation (v 20), " 25 and "man con- 
sistently suppresses all forms of general revelation (vv 21-32). " 26 This 
last assertion is amplified in three more statements. "Mankind uni- 
formly repudiates the knowledge of God afforded by general revela- 
tion (Rom 1:21-22, 28a)." "Man not only spurned the knowledge of 
God but he proceeds to fashion lifeless gods in the form of men, 
birds, animals, and reptiles (vv 23, 25). . . . That is, as a consequence 
of man's sinful rebellion, the light of knowledge of God becomes for 
him utter darkness." Third, "God, because of man's willful rejection 
of the light, gave mankind up to their own inventions (vv 24, 26- 
32)." Demarest apparently sees a progression: knowledge, rejection 
of knowledge, judicially imposed non-knowledge. Darkness replaces 
the rejected light. 

It is more accurate to see a significant degree of epistemic 
simultaneity in Romans 1 (though progression surely is not entirely 

22 Demarest, General Revelation, 139-40, 147. 

" 3 For Demarest, knowledge of God as Creator is possible through general revela- 
tion alone while knowledge of God as Redeemer requires special revelation. For 
Calvin, the "spectacles of Scripture" are necessary for both types of knowledge. See his 
The Institutes of the Christian Religion, I, 6, i. 

24 Demarest, General Revelation, 238. 

25 Ibid., 239. 

26 Ibid., 241. 

27 Ibid., 244. 

28 Ibid., 245. 

29 Ibid., 245. 


absent). Both knowledge and non-knowledge coexist in unregenerate 
human beings. 30 The only alternatives to this seem to be a "history of 
humanity" perspective wherein humankind as a whole goes through 
the stages (in which case any particular human being only experiences 
part of the progression) or an individual perspective in which every 
human being starts fresh with God and goes through each stage 
himself (but this too strongly resembles a Pelagian-like individualism). 
According to a simultaneous view, each human being, having been 
represented in Adam, is born in the condition of depravity and the 
relationship of spiritual death. Nonetheless, he cannot avoid knowing 
true propositions about God as well as being personally acquainted 
with God as the One who is wrathful towards him. 31 Yet even while 
aware of God, he distorts and ignores and suppresses and disobeys 
this knowledge — all of which involve a form of "non-knowledge." 
The unregenerate is always in a relationship with God (and is thus 
"acquainted" with him); he is almost always aware of him (i.e., aware 
of true propositions about him); yet he never loves him (an important 
sense of knowledge in Scripture), seldom obeys him (another impor- 
tant sense of knowledge); and always affirms some false propositions 
about God. In short, every unregenerate seems always characterized 
both by knowledge of God and also by non-knowledge of him. 32 It is 
this differentiated conception of knowledge which Kuyper, Berkouwer, 
and Van Til apparently have in mind by their "persuasive definitions." 
They surely do not intend to deny that unregenerate humans are 
aware of God, but they just as surely do not consider them to have 
knowledge of him involving "reverance, faith, submission, and fidelity" 
(which Demarest says are involved in the Hebrew perspective of "true 
knowledge"). 33 

Perhaps this is the crux of the dispute. Natural theologians find 
both in Scripture and in experience that unregenerate human beings 
are aware of the existence and character of God even apart from 
Scripture and hence conclude that natural theology is legitimate. 34 
Others, however, find that this awareness if not unqualified, that it 
only constitutes one (lower) form of knowledge according to Scrip- 

See Gunther Bornkamm, "The Revelation of God's Wrath: Romans 1-3" in his 
Early Christian Experience (New York: Harper & Row, 1969) 53-69, and "Faith and 
Reason in Paul," ibid., 33-35. 

Demarest's limitation of the unregenerate's knowledge of God to knowledge 
about God while salvation introduces personal knowledge of God is inadequate. 

See John M. Frame, The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God (Phillipsburg, N.J.: 
Presbyterian and Reformed, 1987) 58-59. 

Demarest, General Revelation, 247 '. Demarest affirms this (persuasively defined?) 
"true knowledge" only of believers. 

34 Sproul, Gerstner, and Lindsley, Classical Apologetics, 62-63. 

spencer: is natural theology biblical? 71 

ture, and, even so, that it does not lead to a loving and submissive 
response to God. Consequently, they consider natural theology — as a 
conscious, programmatic, and "open-minded" epistemic project — an 
impossibility. 35 No unregenerate can start from scratch in an attempt 
to establish whether or not a god of such and such a character exists. 
Every human being already is aware of the true God and already has 
responded disobediently and dishonestly to this awareness. This is not 
to say that argument with unregenerates is futile (Scripture clearly 
supports the legitimacy of "reasoning," "disputing," "persuading," 
etc.); only that argument with them which assumes unawareness of 
God and neutrality or open-mindedness toward Him is erroneous. 

In Its Teaching Concerning Unregenerate Humans and Apologetics 

Here the line is crossed from merely the lack of scriptural 
support for natural theology to the biblical illegitimacy of natural 
theology. Unregenerates, inescapably aware of God and continually 
rebellious against God, cannot be introduced to God. Conversion is 
an introduction only to a new level or type of knowledge of God. 
Unregenerates are "knowledgeable suppressors of truth"; as such they 
need a deepening and a purifying of their knowledge of God. It is too 
late to introduce the awareness of God, and it is too optimistic to 
regard them simply as "accurate yet partial" knowers of God. Their 
present knowledge needs not merely additions but also corrections. 
Neither the additions nor the corrections will be received with open 
arms. This new information about God will be no more hospitably 
treated than was the previous information. Natural theology seems at 
times to overestimate the reception both of the previously acquired 
knowledge of God as well as of that knowledge which it contributes. 
The stance of the unbeliever is not merely outside of the Kingdom of 
God, but also against the Kingdom. He/she is not a spectator, but an 
opponent. This is not to deny that unregenerates can be "open and 
receptive" to the Gospel by the ministry of the Spirit, but only to 
affirm that even then, being convicted and drawn by the Spirit, they 
are not neutral and devoid of an awareness of God. In short, natural 
theology is illegitimate because of its overestimation of the unbeliever's 
condition (particularly epistemically). 36 

Another reason that natural theology is an illegitimate method of 
apologetics is that Scripture, in its use of the terms dTio^oyia and 
dTto^oysouai in the NT and in its accounts of apologetic encounters, 

35 The Sproul et al. conclusion is too minimalistic a definition. For them, natural 
theology occurs prior to the evangelistic/ apologetic encounter. Yet the term generally 
seems to be used to also include an activity that is part of the encounter. 

36 For further discussion of this, see my "Common Ground," 4-7. 


always represents apologetics as the defense of the true faith by one 
who already believes it from a stance in this faith and in opposition 
(though meekly) to unbelief. Whether it be Moses before Pharaoh or 
Elijah on Mt. Carmel or Jesus or Peter before the Jewish leaders or 
Paul before Gentiles, apologists in Scripture always work from an 
explicit stance in the faith as known through God's word-deed 
revelation. Even before Gentiles, as argued above, Paul never "lays 
aside Scripture" to work from the stance and values of unbelievers. 
Yet this is what natural theology seems most predominantly to 
advocate. The premise that a meaningful disputation can only occur 
if common epistemic standards and perspectives are used needs 
reconsideration. All that is needed is a common topic of concern, a 
common identity as humans imaging God (however ethically anti- 
thetical that imaging may be) and a common ontic environment. 
Scripture as God's normative disclosure provides the content and the 
perspective for biblical apologetics even though one party in the 
dispute does not accept its authority. 


Both of natural theology's fundamental premises — that unbe- 
lievers are more likely to be responsive to presentations of theism or 
Christianity if presented on their own terms, and that the apologetic 
encounter requires a common epistemic foundation — conflict with 
Scripture. The possible greater response is not worth the adoption of 
an improper method. Moreover, the ontic and topical common 
ground is sufficient to permit rational disputation. Therefore, Scripture 
has neither the example of nor the warrant for natural theology. 
Although both a theology of nature and natural revelation are 
biblical, natural theology is not. 

Grace Theological Journal 9. I (1988) 73-103 




Brad H. Young 

The heavenly ascent motif is common in religious documents of 
late antiquity. A preoccupation with the similarities between these 
accounts leads some to overlook the equally important differences. 
Care should be taken, however, to distinguish between mystical eso- 
tericism and extraordinary religious encounter. 

Earlier Jewish traditions provide the proper context for under- 
standing Paul's visions and revelations; certain Gnostic texts evidence 
yet another distinct stage of development in the ascension motif. But 
thematic parallels do not warrant the assumption that various reli- 
gious traditions are basically identical in origins. And parallels should 
not lead to indiscriminate grouping of essentially unrelated texts. 

The motif of the ascension through the celestial spheres provides 
many insights into the religious thought of various traditions 
and sects in late antiquity. Here the primary texts for examination 
are: Paul's experience in 2 Cor 12:1-10, selected rabbinic narratives, 
the Ascension of Isaiah and the Nag Hammadi Apocalypse of Paul. 
Before turning to the textual examination, a few preliminary observa- 
tions must be made in view of the great methodological problems 
presented by this theme. At the outset, it must be noted that the 
ascension motif is not uniquely Jewish or distinctively Gnostic. 
Neither does Paul's description in 2 Corinthians make it an exclu- 
sively Christian motif. In fact, the heavenly ascent is very widespread 
and appears in many religious contexts. In some of the ascent des- 
criptions, it is difficult to determine if a literal heavenly journey is 
taking place or if a vision is being described. Sometimes, it is not 
clear whether an author is relating a specific revelation or if he is 
explaining the geography of the unknown celestial spheres. Other 
questions are related to these problems. Is the soul or the body 


ascending? Is the ascent induced or does a heavenly messenger appear 
to initiate the experience unsolicited? When does the journey occur? 
How is it connected to death? Does the ascent begin after death or is 
it a mystical experience? 

The heavenly ascent theme seems to be the common property of 
the ancient world. One finds it in the so-called "Mithraic Liturgy." 2 It 
appears in Jewish pseudepigraphic-apocalyptic literature,' in Hermetic 
texts like Poimandres, 4 in the Nag Hammadi codices, 5 and also in 

'Some of these problems are discussed in a Seminar Paper which the writer 
received through the courtesy of M. Stone, see, Philadelphia Seminar on Christian 
Origins, "Heavenly Ascent in Graeco Roman Piety," meeting of October 18, 1977 at 
7:00 p.m. in Williams Hall, University of Pennsylvania. The classic treatment of the 
theme appears in W. Bousset, "Die Himmelsreise der Seele," Archiv fiir Religion- 
swissenschaft 4 (1901) 136-69. Recently a number of studies have appeared which treat 
these questions. See especially A. F. Segal, "Heavenly Ascent in Hellenistic Judaism, 
Early Christianity and their Environment," Aufstieg una 1 Niedergang der romischen 
Welt, II. 23. 2 (1980) 1333-94. M. Dean-Otting's thesis has been published, Heavenly 
Journeys: A Study of the Motif in Hellenistic Jewish Literature (Bern: Peter Lang, 
1984). However Dean-Otting did not include what was defined as Christian texts and 
thus unfortunately the Ascension of Isaiah was excluded (cf. also M. Himmelfarb's 
review, JBL 106 [1987] 126-28). See also Hans-Josef Klauck, "Die Himmelfahrt des 
Paulus (2 Kor 12,2-4) in der koptischen Paulusapokalypse aus Nag Hammadi (NHC 
V/2)" Studien zum Neuen Testament und seiner Umwelt 10 (1985) 151-53, where he 
discusses some of the various components of the ascension theme. J. Tabor has 
proposed four types of heavenly ascent, "(1) Ascent as an invasion of heaven (2) Ascent 
to receive revelation (3) Ascent to heavenly immortality (4) Ascent as a foretaste of the 
heavenly world," idem, Things Unutterable Paul's Ascent to Paradise in its Greco- 
Roman, Judaic, and Early Christian Contexts (New York: Lanham Books, 1986) 69. 
Nonetheless extreme caution must be exercised. Even as a heuristic device, categoriza- 
tion of this theme can be misleading because the ancient writer may employ a combina- 
tion of these familiar elements as he works to achieve his purpose. 

'Franz Cumont, The Mysteries of Mithra (New York: Dover Publications, 1956) 
130-36. See the new translation, M. W. Meyer, The "Mithras Liturgy" (Missoula: 
Scholars Press, 1976). 

See, e.g., 1 Enoch 14:1-15:4, and cf. Enoch's journeys in chapters 17 through 36; 
chapter 70; 2 Enoch 1 22 and the Testament of Levi 2:6ff. (J. H. Charlesworth, ed. Old 
Testament Pseudepigrapha, 2 vols. [New York, 1983-85] has made these texts more 
accessible; see also the recent critical edition of Enoch by M. Black, The Book of 
Enoch [Leiden, 1985]; and on the heavens in the Testament of the Levi, see H. W. 
Hollander and M. de Jonge, The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs [Leiden, 1985] 
134, as well as n. 18 below). A. Segal's work (op. cit. n. 1) is especially helpful and he 
has also called attention to Philo of Alexandria (idem, 1354ff.). See also the works on 
the ascension theme cited in n. 1 above. 

Cf. R. Reitzenstein, Poimandres: Studien zur griechisch-dgyptischen und friih- 
christlichen Literatur (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1966, reprint of 
1904 edition). As has often been noted, the English edition published by Walter Scott 
and A. S. Ferguson in the first volume of their Hermetica (Oxford, 1924-1936, four 
volumes) suffers from the editors' somewhat free emendation of the text. See also 
R. M. Grant, Gnosticism (New York: AMS Press, 1978) 21 Iff., and B. Layton's new 
translation and annotations, The Gnostic Scriptures (New York: Doubleday, 1987) 


New Testament Apocryphal texts like the Christian Apocalypse of 
Paul 6 as well as in the New Testament itself. One also finds direct 
and indirect references to it in both rabbinic literature and in mystical 
Jewish texts. 8 In fact, these texts only begin to illustrate the great 
amount of literature that is associated with this motif. The inherent 
dangers of comparative study are manifest: how, if at all, are these 

449ff. Cf. also H. Jonas, The Gnostic Religion (Boston, 1963) 165-73; Tabor, Tilings 
Unutterable, 66; and Segal, "Heavenly Ascent," 1379-81. For a discussion of some of 
the questions raised by Reitzenstein's conclusions and especially his proposal concern- 
ing a pre-Christian redeemer myth, cf. also C. H. Dodd, The Interpretation of the 
Fourth Gospel (Cambridge, 1953) 10-53; A. Schweitzer, The Mysticism of Paul the 
Apostle (London, 1953) 26-29; C. H. Talbert, "The Myth of a Descending-Ascending 
Redeemer in Mediterranean Antiquity," New Testament Studies 22 (1976) 418-39; 
C. Colpe, Die Religionsgeschichtliche Schule: Darstellung und Kritik ihres Bildes vom 
gnostischen Erlosermythus (1961) 16f.; and E. Yamauchi, Pre-Christian Gnosticism 
(Grand Rapids: Baker, 1983, revised edition) 69-83, 244-45. See also, E. Yamauchi, 
"Hermetic Literature," Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible, Supplementary Volume, 
408 and C. H. Dodd, "Hellenistic Judaism and the Hermetica," The Bible and the 
Greeks (London, 1935, reprint 1964), part 2, 97-248. Grant observes, "The most 
obvious explanation of the origin of the Gnostic redeemer is that he was modelled after 
the Christian conception of Jesus. It seems significant that we know no redeemer 
before Jesus, while we encounter other redeemers (Simon Magus, Menander) immedi- 
ately after his time" (ibid., 18). 

5 In addition to the Nag Hammadi Apocalypse of Paul discussed here, see also e.g., 
The Gospel of Truth 1.3.21-22; The Apocryphon of John II. 1.20; The Apocryphon of 
James 1.2.10-15; The Tripartite Tractate 1.5.123; On the Origin of the World 11.5.116, 
127; The Exegesis on the Soul II.6.134. Cf. also the discussion of "Nag Hammadi" in 
the Philadelphia Seminar on Christian Origins and the work of Kurt Rudolph, Gnosis: 
the Nature and History of Gnosticism (New York: Harper and Row, 1987) 171-203. 

E.g., The Apocalypse of Paul llff., cf. H. Duensing's edition, in E. Hennecke and 
J. W. Schneemelcher, New Testament Apocrypha (London: SCM, 1974), 2:763ff. See 
also n. 10 below. 

2 Corinthians 12:1-10. See also V. Furnish, // Corinthians (New York: Double- 
day, 1984) 523-32. 

8 Cf. b. Chagigah 14b (parallels tos. Chag. 2.1; j. Chag. 77b, Chap. 2. hal. 1) and 
see E. E. Urbach, "Hamasorot Al Torat Hasod Betekufat Hatannaim," Studies in 
Mysticism and Religion Presented to G. Scholem (Jerusalem: Magnes, 1967) 7 n. 25 
where he notes the texts from tos. Megilah 3 (4):28 (Leiberman's edition, 361-62) and 
the parallel in b. Megilah 24b, "They said to R. Judah: Many have discerned suf- 
ficiently [with their mind's eye] to expound the Chariot, and yet they never saw it" 

(Dn^D nms ixn xVi rnDnaa urn-? 1 ? ids nmn mirr ■a-i"? i 1 ? rinx). Some of the 

methodological problems of comparative study have been outlined by P. Alexander, 
"Comparing Merkavah Mysticism and Gnosticism: an Essay in Method," JJS 25 
(1984) 1-18, and for a summary of the research, see Yehuda Liebes, The Sin of Elisha: 
the Four who Entered Paradise and the Nature of Talmudic Mysticism (Hebrew 
University Monograph Series, 1986) 3-33 (Hebrew). See also I. Gruenwald, Apoca- 
lyptic and Merkavah Mysticism (Leiden: Brill, 1980) 29-72; he discusses Ascensio 
Isaiae on pp. 57-62; cf. G. Scholem, Jewish Gnosticism, Merkabah Mysticism and 
Talmudic Tradition (New York: The Jewish Theological Seminary of America, re- 
vised edition, 1965); Ma c aseh Merkabah and Hekhaloth Rabbati; For editions see 


exemplary texts related and what are the differences between them. 
Nevertheless it is certainly a grave error to minimize the importance 
of the differences in an effort to prove that all religious traditions of 
late antiquity are similar or basically identical. The differences may 
appear insignificant to a modern outsider, but to insiders, i.e. those 
initiated in cultic practice and belief, subtle distinctions were often 

It should be noted, however, that the idea of the heavenly ascent 
carries a considerable weight of importance within the framework of 
Gnostic religious thought. For instance, the Nag Hammadi Gospel of 
Truth teaches, "Since perfection of all is in the Father, it is necessary 
for the all to ascend to him" (I, 3.21.20). 10 While it may not be clear 
when the ascent will occur, it does appear that all will be required to 
ascend. In other words, the ascent is unavoidable. As Grant has 
shown, the soul's ascent may be understood in some contexts as the 
spirit's escape from evil matter. 11 No doubt the Gnostic believer 
viewed his ascent through the celestial spheres as his journey to the 
highest degree of perfection. This ascent through the hostile celestial 

S. Wertheimer, Batei Midrashot (Jerusalem: Ktav Vasefer, 1980); A. Jellinek, Beit 
Hamidrash (Jerusalem: Bamberger and Wahrmann, 1938); S. Mosaiov, Merkavah 
Shelemah (Jerusalem: Makor, 1972); Rachel Elior, "Hekhalot Zutarti," Jerusalem 
Studies in Jewish Thought, Supplement 1 (1982), based upon Jewish Theological 
Seminary manuscript 8128; and especially the important work of P. Schafer, Synopse 
zur Hekhalot- Literatur (Tubingen: J. C. B. Mohr, 1981). The present study will show 
that careful research of specific texts is the best way to approach these questions. 

Pace Tabor, Things Unutterable, 4ff.; Tabor claims, "Jacob Neusner has repeat- 
edly documented similar attempts to mark off periods or figures or sources belonging to 
a 'pure' past (conceived in various ways) by scholars working in the area of Judaism in 
late antiquity. This essentially 'fundamentalist' tendency is encountered often in the 
history of the 'history' of religions." Tabor continues, "The perennial 'Hellenistic vs. 
Judaic' debate will not appear [in Tabor's book], since I am convinced that emerging 
Christianity and the other forms of Second Temple Judaism are, by definition, 'Hel- 
lenistic' (strictly, Roman imperial) religions, essentially similar to the other religions of 
the period" (ibid). On the contrary, a tenditious blending together of all religious 
traditions because of some similarities and by ignoring the limitations of time, historical 
figures and careful analysis of literary sources as well as the distinctive characteristics 
of each tradition will certainly lead to questionable results. Objective historical analysis 
requires consideration of these factors in order to understand and to interpret early 
religious texts within their original cultural milieu. 

Compare also the Epistula Apostolorum, 20-21, prepared by H. Duensing, in 
E. Hennecke and J. W. Schneemelcher, New Testament Apocrypha, 1:205. In addition, 
cf. J. Doresse, The Secret Books of the Egyptian Gnostics (Vermont, 1986) 146-248, 
who deals with the tractates individually as he comments upon the tenants of gnostic 

R. M. Grant, Gnosticism and Early Christianity (New York: Columbia Uni- 
versity Press, 1959)61. 


regions was considered dangerous and special knowledge or a guide 
was needed to make the trip successfully. Some systems emphasized 
the need for this knowledge and increased the number of spheres that 
the traveler must pass. Basilides, for example, maintained that there 
were three hundred and fifty six heavens. 12 

Whether this ascent happens at death is not always clear. At 
least, the Christian Apocalypse of Paul provides a parallel that could 
be related to the Gnostic idea. At death, when a soul passes from its 
body, wicked angels and holy angels are waiting to meet it. On the 
one hand, the evil angels take the sinner's soul to the place of torment 
and on the other hand, the holy angels escort the righteous one's soul 
through the perilous heavenly spheres to paradise. 13 

How did the ascension theme develop? Any attempt to try to 
trace its genesis back to a single origin is unsatisfactory. The wide- 
spread use of the motif makes it difficult to show that influence comes 
from one source. This phenomenon did not arise in a vacuum. It 
appears to be the product of a combination of themes that were 
circulating within a common religious environment. At this point, 
any identification of this mutual religious environment and its rela- 
tionship to Gnosticism is premature. Rather than trying to isolate a 
specific sphere of influence, it is more productive to view elements 
within specific texts and to understand their relationship to each 
other. Here after a careful textual examination, different stages of 
development will become clear. On the one hand the scholar must 
take care not to group unrelated texts together, but at the same time 
he must carefully consider parallel themes and the connections be- 
tween them. 


That Paul had polemical motives in mind when writing 2 Corin- 
thians has often been noted. Apparently he was polemicizing with a 
group of super-pneumatics and wanted to say that he had also 
received numerous visions and revelations. As reported in the account 

"See Irenaeus, adv. haer. I, 24:3 and cf. J. Danielou, The Theology of Jewish 
Christianity (London: The Westminster Press, 1964) 75. 

n The Apocalypse of Paul 14-17; in E. Hennecke and J. W. Schneemelcher, New 
Testament Apocrypha, 2:766ff. Cf. with the Testament of Job 52: Iff., S. P. Brock, 
Testamentum Iobi (Leiden: Brill, 1967) 58, and the new English translation by R. P. 
Spittler in J. Charlesworth, The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, 1:867. (David Flusser 
called my attention to the Testament of Job.) Compare also the Coptic texts discussed 
in J. Zandee, Death as an Enemy (New York: Arno, 1977) 328-36, and on the Greek 
conception of death, cf. R. Garland, The Greek View of Death (Ithaca: Cornell 
University, 1980). 


of Acts, and it seems that this work is closely connected to Paul 
himself, Paul had at least eight visions. 14 Bowker has argued that 
these experiences of Paul may very well somehow be related to Paul's 
training in merkabah contemplation. 15 Perhaps Scholem has been the 
most prominent advocate for claiming that Paul's experience as 
described in 2 Cor 12:1-10 is a description of early merkabah mysti- 
cism, "It is obvious that Paul, who wrote these lines about the year 58 
c.e., was speaking of an idea with which his readers were familiar, a 
Jewish conception that he as well as his readers in Corinth, had 
brought over into the new Christian community." 

Recently Schafer has challenged Scholem's approach and a num- 
ber of scholars may question whether the story of the four who 
entered into the OTIS as recorded in talmudic literature should be 
discussed in the context of the ascension motif. The controversy 
surrounds the rabbinic tradition concerning the four sages who en- 
tered into the OTIS and Paul's ascent (literally being caught up) into 
the third heaven where he was in "Paradise" (f]p7rdyr| sic; tov 7iapd- 

l4 J. Bowker, "'Merkabah' Visions and the Visions of Paul," JSS 16 (1971) 159 
n. 2. Here are some of Paul's visions recorded in Acts and his epistles: his Damascus 
road experience (Acts 9:3-6, 26:12-18); his vision of Ananias (Acts 9:12); the appear- 
ance of the Macedonian man after which Paul responds by immediately trying to travel 
to Macedonia (Acts 16:9-10); the vision of encouragement in Corinth (Acts 18:9-10); 
his experience in the Temple where apparently Paul was in ecstasy or some kind of 
trance-like state (yeveaOai ue ev eKoiaasi, Acts 22:17-21; and compare the language 
used to describe Peter's vision, Acts 11:5; see n. 29 below); the night vision after his 
appearance before the council (Acts 23:11); the angel who appeared to him before his 
shipwreck (Acts 27:23-24); and of course 2 Cor 12:1-10. It should also be noted that 
Paul speaks of the gospel he preached as being derived through revelation (Gal 1:12) 
and that he took time to sojourn in Arabia apparently for contemplation (Gal 1:17). 

l5 Ibid. David E. Aune has observed that 2 Cor 12:9 forms an oracular response 
which has parallels both in Greco-Roman sources as well as in the prophetic narratives 
of the Old Testament and in the ancient near eastern literature. He understands the 
passage in 2 Cor 12:1-10 as describing two different experiences. Here I have suggested 
that the continuation of the passage (2 Cor 12:7-10) is a further description of his 
ascent (vv 1-6). Although Aune notes the form of a Heilsorakel giving the apostle 
assurance, Aune believes that the description is probably an actual experience rather 
than a mere parable which is used for Paul's purpose (see Aune, Prophecy in Early 
Christianity and the Ancient Mediterranean World [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1983] 

G. Scholem, Jewish Gnosticism, Merkabah Mysticism, and Talmudic Tradition 
(New York: The Jewish Seminary of America, 1965) 17. It seems that Scholem 
probably was too quick to make a connection between early Christianity and Jewish 
mystical texts especially when he proposes that merkabah mysticism was well known 
among the Corinthian congregation. 

P. Schafer, "New Testament and Hekhalot Literature: The Journey into Heaven 
in Paul and in Merkavah Mysticism," JJS 35 (1984) 32ff. While the present author has 
difficulties with Scholem (see preceding noie), Schafer's approach seems to lead too far 
in the other direction. 


8siaov). 18 Schafer has suggested that originally the story about the 
four sages was probably "meant to demonstrate four different types 
of Torah teachers and, by way of the type represented by Akiba, to 
show the desirable model." He bases this interpretation primarily 
on the reading of the Tosefta which records that R. Akiva "entered 
and came out" instead of the terminology that would betray a mysti- 
cal tendency, namely that he ascended and descended. 20 

,8 Ibid., 25-26 and 32. The meaning of the word OTIS in the story of the four sages 
and the word TiapctSeiooq in 2 Corinthians will continue to be a controversial question. 
The word OTIS only appears three times in the Old Testament (Cant 4:13, Neh 2:8 and 
Eccl 2:5). In rabbinic literature a OTIS may be nothing more than a garden or an 
orchard. The Hebrew word seems to be derived from the Avestan pairidaeza, and is a 
loanword from old Persian, pairi-daza- (read pari-daiza- or -deza-) which originally 
meant "beyond the wall," and hence an enclosure, a pleasant retreat or park. See also 
L. Koehler and W. Baumgartner, Lexicon in Veteris Testamenti Libros, 776, and 
especially J. Jeremias' treatment in TDNT, 5:765-73. In addition, cf. Tabor, Things 
Unutterable, 115-21. Tabor carefully deals with the materials in parallel sources but 
wrongly suggests that Paul describes a two stage journey in 2 Corinthians 12 in which 
the third heaven was a station on the way to paradise. However his suggestion makes 
little sense from the context of Paul's epistle where the third heaven is best understood 
as being parallel to the term 7iapd5etoo<;. The question has been entertained by Klauck 
who suggests, "Der dritte Himmel ist zugleich der hochste Himmel. 'Paradies' sagt nur 
etwas mehr iiber seine besondere Qualitat aus," Klauck, "Die Himmelfahrt des Paulus 
(2 Kor 12,2-4) in der koptischen Paulusapokalypse aus Nag Hammadi (NHC V/2)," 
155. Moreover as has often been noted, according to the better reading, the T. Levi 
2:7-10; 3:1-4 also conceives of three heavens). Moreover it is important to note that 
the LXX translators used the term 7tapd8eioo<; when referring to the Garden of Eden. 
The Greek word has also been connected to the place of blessedness for the righteous 
(e.g., T. Levi 18:10 and Luke 23:43, and cf. with Billerbeck, Kommentar zum Neuen 
Testament, 2:265, 3:532-35). As has been noted by others, the Aramaic portions of 
Enoch discovered in Qumran Cave 4 have provided further witness to the "Paradise of 
righteousness" XUWp DTIO (J. T. Milik, The Books of Enoch [Oxford: The Clarendon 
Press, 1976] 232, [357], 289-90). The "Paradise of righteousness" is also mentioned in 
the Vitae Adae et Evae where Adam ascends, "... raptus sum in paradisum iustitiae" 
(see n. 3i below). In II (Slavonic) Enoch (8: If.), Paradise is located above in the third 
heaven (compare Apocalypsis Mosis 40:1-2). IV Ezra (4:8) also seems to elevate 
Paradise above the earth, but there is not universal agreement (see n. 8b by F. I. 
Andersen, "2 Enoch," Charlesworth, The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, 1:114-15; 
and see M. Stone, "Paradise in 4 Ezra iv:8 and vii:36, vii:52," Journal of Jewish Studies 
17 [1966] 85-88). See also the entry for paradeisos in the revision of W. Bauer's A 
Greek- English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature by 
F. W. Gingrich and F. W. Danker, (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1979) 
614; and cf. the Aruch Hashalem, 6:413. One must also ask why the LXX translators 
render the Garden of Eden by the term Paradise while the later Aramaic Targumim 
give a more literal translation. Was "Paradise" demythologized at a later time? 

19 Schafer, 28. 

"°Ibid., 25. Schafer suggests that the more original version, "he entered in peace 
and went out in peace" was altered by later mystics and this accounts for the reading in 
the Vienna manuscript, "he ascended in peace and descended in peace" (Lieberman, 
tos. Chag. 2:3, 381, and Zuckermandel tos. Chag. 2:4, 234). Of course Schafer is 


While terminology is an important aspect of all textual studies, 
in the case of the four who entered the DT19, the difference between 
the terms entering and leaving and between ascending and descending 
does not change the basic facts of the story. These four sages are said 
to have undergone a very dangerous experience. In all the parallels of 
the tradition, one of the sages actually dies and only one of them 
survives without injury — R. Akiva. Moreover, it is not clear that the 
version of the story in the Vienna manuscript, which contains the 
phrase, "R. Akiva ascended in peace and descended in peace," is 
secondary. 21 It might be ventured that the terminology of ascending 
and descending is used in regards to R. Akiva because he is the only 
one of the four sages not to be harmed by the encounter. But even if 
this story is understood as a metaphoric paradigm as Urbach and 
Schafer suggested — it is doubtful if it was designed primarily to 
present R. Akiva as the model Torah teacher, but rather to teach the 
dangers of mystical contemplation and at the same time to de- 
mythologize the whole tradition. 22 

The exact connection between this story of the four who entered 
the DT1S and Paul's experience will remain a mystery. Nevertheless it 
seems that the two traditions are indeed closely related. Paul speaks 
about being "taken up" as if his ascent were involuntary or at least 
unsolicited. The way that he describes the whole affair makes it 
difficult to determine whether he felt that the ascent was self-induced 

correct when he claims that an issue like this cannot be solved by noting that the 
Vienna manuscript is thought to be superior to that of Erfurt (ibid.). However if a 
mystic was making a modification in the text he most certainly would have used the 
more common expression of yarad for the ascent. In addition, it is also quite possible 
that a scribe may have adapted the phrase "R. Akiva ascended in peace and descended 
in peace" to the introduction of the story "four entered the pardes." After a harmoniza- 
tion had been made, other scribes would quite easily have corrected the Tosefta on the 
basis of the parallels. While it is difficult to be dogmatic on this point, much evidence 
supports the reading of the Vienna manuscript, "R. Akiva ascended in peace and 
descended in peace." 

See the preceding note. The main texts of the story are found in tos. Chagigah 
2:3-4; j. Chagigah 77b, chap. 2, hal. 1; b. Chagigah 1415b; and see now D. Halperin, 
The Merkabah in Rabbinic Literature (New Haven: American Oriental Society, 
1980) 86ff. 

" The various restrictions from early sources which were placed upon those desir- 
ing to become involved with the merkabah strengthen this approach, and see Halperin, 
19-63. See E. E. Urbach, "Hamasorot Al Torat Hasod Betekufat Hatannaim," Studies 
in Mysticism and Religion Presented to G. Scholem (Jerusalem: Magnes, 1967) 12-13 
(Hebrew). Urbach suggests that the whole story should be treated as a parable. He 
interprets the phrase, "R. Akiva ascended in peace and descended in peace" as referring 
to his climbing the fence of the OTIS in the ^WB. But if this were the case surely a fence 
would have been mentioned in the text. 


or not. Paul's description is very intriguing because it is a first hand 
report about his own experience. The rabbinic story is preserved in 
narrative form and this may account for some of the differences 
between the traditions. Paul does not know whether he is in the body 
or out of the body, a fact which he repeats for emphasis. He begins to 
tell the story about himself in the third person perhaps in order to 
express his feeling of detachment during his ascent or less likely as a 
literary device. 23 Though not all will agree, a careful reading of 
2 Corinthians 12 will show that verses 5-10 are most likely a further 
elaboration of Paul's revelation. Interestingly three times Paul asks 
that this messenger of Satan be removed from him and he receives the 
response, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made 
perfect in weakness." 24 It may be that he made his request and heard 
this voice as he entered each celestial sphere, though Paul does not 
explicitly say this himself. 

When the connection between 2 Corinthians 12 verses 1-5 and 
verses 6-10 is thus understood, the whole mystical experience is a 
response to Paul's complaint concerning his "thorn in the flesh" for 
which many explanations have been developed. It is most likely that 
the thorn in the flesh was related to the difficulties and persecution 
that Paul suffered which are discussed in the context of this epistle. 25 
This interpretation also fits Paul's expression, the "messenger of 
Satan," which he used to describe this thorn in the flesh. It harasses 
Paul in order to prevent him from becoming too elated "by the 
abundance of revelations" (vs. 7). Hence, Paul's mystical experience 
seems to have had a dramatic effect and a great influence upon his 
personal life. The message, "My grace is sufficient," and "My power is 
made perfect in weakness," was probably what Paul considered to be 
one of his most profound revelations — at least he selected this 
experience to demonstrate to the super-pneumatics at Corinth that he 
also was acquainted better than they with visions and revelations. 
This message, as well as 'being snatched away,' was important for 
Paul's purposes. 

While Paul does not describe seeing anything specific in this 
revelation (in contrast to the four sages in rabbinic literature), it 

23 2Cor 12:8-9. 

24 0f course another reason why Paul repeats himself here may be because he had 
not fully organized his thoughts before writing. Some have suggested that Paul was 
referring to someone other than himself because of his use of the third person (e.g., 
F. Jackson and K. Lake, The Beginnings of Christianity [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1979], 
4:281 on Acts 22:17). However for among other reasons, this theory hardly seems 
tenable because it is highly unlikely that Paul would have described someone else's 
vision in order to impress the pneumatic Christians at Corinth. 

25 E.g., 2 Cor 11:23-28 and 12:10. 


should not be hastily concluded that this experience was not accom- 
panied by some sort of visual phenomena, as well as by the message 
concerning God's grace and the apprixa pr|uaxa. 26 For one thing Paul 
does state quite clearly that he has had "visions and revelations of the 
Lord" (vs. 1). The various revelations described in Acts often include 
both visual phenomena and auditory messages. Since Paul could not 
determine whether he was in or out of his body, he was apparently 
seeing something or he was in some trance-like state or both. Paul is 
relating a personal experience and one in which he received a special 
message. He desired to communicate this aspect of his revelation to 
the Christians at Corinth and not merely to boast about his ascent 
and the "unutterable things" that cannot be told. In the other visions 
of Paul described in Acts, one can see that he often received direc- 
tions or that each revelation had a specific purpose. On the road to 
Damascus Paul is said to have seen a bright light; in Troas a man 
from Macedonia appeared to him; and on the ship he saw an angel. 
In 2 Corinthians, Paul does not describe the heavenly spheres, but he 
is aware that he has entered the TtapaSsiaoc; in the third heaven and 
thus he must have seen something. 

The story of the four who entered the OTIS seems to be related to 
Paul's mystical experience in the third heaven. The precise nature of 
this relationship will remain somewhat of an enigma because of the 
fragmentary state of the evidence. Urbach has suggested that the 
story from rabbinic literature should be interpreted metaphorically. 
Even though Urbach considers it as a type of allegory, he maintains 
that the object which the rabbis were viewing (f ¥1"!) was the 
merkabah. 28 Nevertheless Urbach would not describe Akiva's and his 
colleagues' experience as an ecstatic revelation. Certainly the self- 
induced mysticism described by Hai Gaon does not seem to be 
appropriate for these four sages' experience. 29 Flusser pointed out 
that outside of this text in rabbinic literature and 2 Corinthians, the 

26 Perhaps Schafer (op. cit. n. 18 above, p. 23), has been too hasty to conclude that 
Paul only heard and did not see anything. Of course Schafer's well thought out 
argument does call attention to the fact that in 2 Corinthians, Paul does not claim to 
have viewed the merkabah. 

" See n. 14 above. 

28 See E. E. Urbach, "Hamasorot Al Torat Hasod Betekufat Hatannaim," Studies 
in Mysticism and Religion Presented to G. Scholem (Jerusalem: Magnes, 1967) 12-13. 
Urbach's position is treated by Schafer, op. cit., n. 17, p. 26. 

See B. Lewin, Otzar Hageonim (Jerusalem, 1931) 13-15, quoted by Halperin, 
The Merkabah in Rabbinic Literature, 3. According to Hai Gaon, the one who 
possessed the special qualities to look at the merkabah had to prepare himself. He had 
to fast, place his head between his knees and recite specific songs and hymns. Hai 
Gaon's description is one that suggests a self-induced trance or ecstatic state. It is 
difficult to ascertain if some were involved in this kind of activity during Hai Gaon's 


terms OTIS or 7rap&5eiGo<; are never used to describe the "destination 
of the mystic's ascent of the soul." 30 This fact makes the connections 
between the texts that much more significant. If Paradise was com- 
monly understood as being located above the earth, then it is no 
wonder that Paul had to ascend. In the Vita Adae et Evae Adam 
describes a vision to his son Seth: 

. . . while we were praying, Michael the archangel and messenger of 
God came to me. And I saw a chariot like the wind and its wheels were 
fiery. 1 was carried off into the Paradise of Righteousness, and I saw 
the LORD sitting and his appearance was unbearable flaming fire. And 
many thousands of angels were at the right and at the left of the 
chariot. 31 

This text describes how Adam "was caught up into the Paradise of 
righteousness" where he saw the Lord. But can this text and Paul's 
experience elucidate the story about Ben Azzai, Ben Zoma, Elisha 
ben Avuyah and R. Akiva? What exactly happened to these sages? 
The truth is that no one will ever know because the rabbinic passages 
describing the four who entered the OTIS do not elaborate. 

The tradition is related about the rabbis and it is unfortunate 
that no authentic texts have been recovered in which the sages in- 
volved describe their own experiences. Paul obviously feels that his 
journey to the third heaven was a very impressive revelation — one 

time. The vivid and detailed description would suggest an affirmative answer. Mystical 
experience is very difficult for scholars to analyze. One researcher employed this meta- 
phor: scholars studying mysticism are like accountants planning finances — they know 
all about the treasures of others but are unable to use them. This does not mean that 
personal mystical experiences would aid scholarly research — but it does point to the 
difficulties of analyzing someone else's encoumer. Hai Gaon may be making an attempt 
to understand what happened. In the book of Acts, it may be Luke who adds the detail 
'while he was praying' to some of the accounts concerning visions (Acts 9:5?; 11:5; 
22:17) which probably was not in his source but surely is a characteristic Lukan 
addition (compare the appearance of the word proseuchomai in the texts of the 

30 D. Flusser, "Scholem's Recent Book on Merkabah Literature," JJS 1 1 (1961) 62. 

lx Vita Adae et Evae 25:1-3 (M. D. Johnston, "Life of Adam and Eve," Charles- 
worth, ed., The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, 2:266-68, and W. Meyer, Abhand- 
lungen der Bayrischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 14/3 [1878] 229; the text was 
discussed by Scholem, Jewish Gnosticism, Merkabah Mysticism, and Talmudic Tradi- 
tion, 17; see also J. Licht, "Adam and Eve, Book of the Life of," Encyclopaedia 
Judaica, 2:246-47 and cf. with J. Charlesworth, The Pseudepigrapha and Modern 
Research with a Supplement, 74-75). On the location of Paradise, see n. 18 above. On 
the idea that certain verses of scripture like Ezekiel's merkabah were used in mystical 
contemplation, compare Urbach, "Hamasorot Al Torat Hasod Betekufat Hatannaim," 
2, 16-17, and Halperin, The Merkabah in Rabbinic Literature, 179-85. Adam sees the 
Lord enthroned above and the merkabah. 


that would commend his epistle to the pneumatic Corinthians. Never- 
theless Paul does not indicate that this revelation was dangerous but 
rather describes its meaning to his readers. Like Paul, the rabbis are 
said to have had some kind of extraordinary experience in the 0T19. 

The precise nature of this experience is difficult to define. There 
is an appropriate uneasiness with the term "mysticism" when it comes 
to the passage concerning the four rabbis and also with respect to 
Paul's testimony in 2 Corinthians. A sharp distinction should be 
made between a sort of mystical esotericism and an extraordinary 
religious encounter. However, if one can understand mysticism in the 
sense of a deep or dynamic spiritual experience, then it could be that 
both Paul's testimony and the narrative about the four sages in some 
way reflect a kind of early pre-Christian mysticism concerning which 
modern scholarship knows comparatively little. In this way without 
denying that such experiences have occurred and probably have in- 
fluenced a number of the great religious geniuses of history, it is 
possible to de-mystify the spiritual encounter from an extreme eso- 
teric and sometimes self-induced mysticism that appears in some 
form or another in multiple religious traditions. However, in the final 
analysis, Paul's visions and revelations and specifically his experience 
when taken up to the third heaven should be interpreted in the context 
of an early stream of pre-Christian Jewish mystical contemplation. 32 


Ascensio Isaiae also deals with a vision as the text describes the 
prophet's ascent through the celestial regions. The Ascension of Isaiah 
was well known and widely circulated. Manuscripts are extant in 
Ethiopic, in Coptic, in Slavonic, in Latin and some portions of 

32 Flusser has pointed to the Essene influence in the second stratum of Christianity 
in his article, "The Dead Sea Sect and Pre-Pauline Christianity" Scripta, 4:215-66. It 
should be noted that the Essenes believed in the prophetic gift. But one should not be 
too hasty to see a connection with early Christian pneumatics (see n. 29 above; and the 
work of David E. Aune, op. cit. n. 15 above). Nevertheless, in 1 Corinthians 12-14, 
Paul discusses various TtvevjuatiKoi. Fascinatingly enough Paul's wording, aptt 8i 
£o67iTpovj ev aivtYuaii, is partially paralleled in some midrashic texts which speak 
about the divinely inspired utterances and experiences of the prophets and of Moses. In 
one of these texts preserved in the name of R. Judah bar Ilai, one of the five disciples 
of R. Akiva who survived the revolt, one finds that the midrash contrasts Moses to the 
other prophets by observing, "But Moses beheld [prophetic visions] through a polished 
[glass] specularium, as it is said. The similitude of the Lord doth he behold (Numbers 
12:8)." (Lev. Rabbah 1:14, Soncino translation, 17, see also the critical edition of 
Margulies, 1:30-32). Thus Moses was able to view the , "'' nnon. Compare also b. 
Yebamot 49b, "All the prophets looked into a dim glass [specularitan], but Moses 
looked through a clear glass [specularium]." See the context in b. Yebamot 49b where 
Isaiah's theophany and his words, "I saw the LORD," became a point of controversy. 


Greek. Most of the scholars who have worked with the text agree that 
it is a composite work, written by a number of authors at different 
periods. While Laurence, Burkitt, and Burch have argued for the 
unity of the text, 33 scholarly consensus rests decidedly with the view 
that the work is a composite variously divided anywhere from two 
distinct sections to four separate parts. 34 The first part is "the Mar- 
tyrdom of Isaiah" which is thought to be of early Jewish origin. 
Knibb suggests that it was composed during the period of persecu- 
tions of the Jewish people by Antiochus Epiphanes (167-64 b.c.e.). 35 
Flusser has connected it with the Dead Sea sectarians. 36 The other 
sections seem to augment the account of the Martyrdom in the first 
section. 37 Here it would be ventured that the text is a composite of 
three basic sections, the "Martyrdom of Isaiah," the "Testament of 
Hezekiah" and the "Ascension of Isaiah." The last section, which 
deals with Isaiah's ascension through the heavenly spheres is impor- 
tant for the present discussion. 

Nevertheless, it must be remembered that the tradition concerning 
Isaiah's tragic death at the hands of Manasseh was popular in Jewish, 
Christian, and Gnostic circles. The Talmud reports that Rabbi Shimon 
ben Azai found a scroll in Jerusalem which told that Manasseh killed 
Isaiah. The death sentence was decreed because Isaiah had claimed 

Both 1 Cor 13:12 and Leviticus Rabbah 1:14 are closely connected to Num 12:8. See 
Billerbeck, Kommeniar zum Neuen Testament aus Talmud und Midrasch, 3:452-53; 
cf. Aruch, 1:191. The midrash deals with exegesis and the relationship of Moses to the 
other prophets. Paul addresses a specific problem at Corinth. 

33 R. H. Charles, The Ascension of Isaiah (London: Adam and Charles Black, 
1900), p. xxxvi — recalls that Laurence, Ascensio Isaiae Vatis, 1819, viewed the text as a 
unit; J. Flemming and H. Duensing, "The Ascension of Isaiah," New Testament 
Apocrypha, eds. Hennecke and Schneemelcher, 2:643, cite F. C. Burkitt, Jewish and 
Christian Apocalypses, 1914, and Vacher Burch, Journal of Theological Studies 21 
(1920) 249ff., as supporting single authorship; cf. James H. Charlesworth, The Pseude- 
pigrapha and Modern Research (Missoula, Montana: Scholars Press, 1976) 125-26. 
See especially the article by David Flusser, Encyclopaedia Judaica, 9:71. 

34 See M. A. Knibb, "Martyrdom and Ascension of Isaiah," Charlesworth, ed., The 
Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, 2:147-49. 

35 See Knibb, "Martyrdom and Ascension of Isaiah," 147-49. 

36 See David Flusser, "The Apocryphal Book of Ascensio Isaiae and the Dead Sea 
Sect," Israel Exploration Journal 3 (1953) 30-47. Flusser has presented some strong 
arguments concerning the terminology, ideology and historical allusions to the so- 
called "Martyrdom of Isaiah" which link the text with the Dead Sea sect. 

37 See Box, The Ascension of Isaiah, ix-x. Box further segments the text into "The 
Testament of Hezekiah" (chapter iii. 13-v. la), the completion of Isaiah's Martyrdom 
(chapter v. lb- 14), and finally "Isaiah's Vision" (chapters vi-xi). On the composite 
nature of the text, see also M. A. Knibb, "Martyrdom and Ascension of Isaiah," 

38 B. Yebamot 49b; cf. b. Sanhedrin 103b; and see also j. Sanhedrin 28c, chap. 10, 
hal. 2 where Isaiah is elevated to the status of Moses — probably to heighten the gravity 


to have seen the Lord sitting upon His throne of glory. Isaiah's vision 
opposed what Moses had taught, namely, that no one may see the 
Lord and live (Ex 33:20). In an attempt to escape, Isaiah hid himself 
within a tree. Manasseh had the tree sawn in two and killed the 
prophet in the process. Thus Isaiah was executed because he claimed 
to have seen the Holy One enthroned on high! The whole story is 
somewhat ironic because Manasseh is by no means portrayed in the 
Hebrew Scriptures as a king who displayed interest in theological 
purity and yet Manasseh had Isaiah executed because of the prophet's 
mystical vision of the Lord enthroned in His glory. 39 Does this 
tradition betray tension against mystical contemplation? 

Within the Christian tradition, Isaiah's death is more than likely 
alluded to in the New Testament. The Epistle to the Hebrews relates 
that some saints were sawn asunder, contending for their faith 
(Heb 11:37). Often with good reason, commentators have suggested 
that here Hebrews seems to make reference to Isaiah's death. Early 
Christian writers such as Justin Martyr {Dial. c. Tryph. chapter cxx) 
and Tertullian (De patientia chapter xiv; Scorpiace, chapter viii) 
mention Isaiah's execution by the wood saw. The tradition was also 
known to Origen, Epiphanius, and Jerome. 

The reference to Isaiah from the Nag Hammadi Tractates, is 
related to the prophet's death. The writer of The Testimony of Truth 
was familiar with the legend. Unfortunately, some lacunae are found 
in the text, but the translators have rendered the passage as follows: 

But the word of [. . .] and spirit [. . .] is the Father [. . .] for the man 
[. . .] like Isaiah, who was sawed with a saw, (and) he became two. [So 

of Manasseh's sin and the greatness of God's compassion in forgiving him. At any rate, 
in the Jerusalem Talmud the greatness of Isaiah is emphasized, for like Moses, God 
spoke to him more directly. See C. C. Torrey, The Lives of the Prophets (Philadelphia: 
The Society of Biblical Literature and Exegesis, 1946) 20, 34; D. R. A. Hare, "The 
Lives of the Prophets," J. Charlesworth, ed., Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, 2:385f.; 
and also M. Stone, Armenian Apocrypha Relating to the Patriarchs and Prophets 
(Jerusalem: The Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, 1982) 160-61 and cf. n. 1. 

39 Cf. preceding note and R. H. Charles, "The Martyrdom of Isaiah," The 
Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament, (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 
1977), 2:158. Also see Billerbeck, 3:747. Also it should be noted that Flusser observed, 
"It is not surprising that the author of Ascensio Isaiae projects the religious disputes of 
his own day into the period of Isaiah, and presents them as a dispute between Isaiah 
and the false prophets," idem, "The Apocryphal Book of Ascensio Isaiae and the Dead 
Sea Sect," 40. 

It is reasonable to assume that some sages would have viewed visions and 
mystical experiences as a possible danger. A charlatan could have employed stories of 
visions to lead the people astray. 

4 For a more complete list of references see Emil Schiirer, The History of the 
Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ (New York: Charles Scribners Sons, 1891), 


also the Son of Man divides] us by [the word of the] cross. It [divides 
the day from] the night and the corruptible [from] incorruptibility, and 
it [divides] the males from the females. But [Isaiah] is the type of the 
body. The saw is the word of the Son of Man which separates from the 
error of the angels. 4 " 

Here the author has taken the tradition and allegorized it into his 
framework of dualism. He seems to have stylized this passage on the 
famous verse in the Epistle of the Hebrews: 

The word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged 
sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, and joints and 
marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (Heb 
4:12 NIV). 

At least, these texts show that the tradition concerning Isaiah's death 
was known to Jewish, Christian, and Gnostic writers alike. 

When the story concerning Isaiah's death existed independently 
is difficult to determine. The legend is apparently based upon the 
scriptural accounts of Manasseh's blood letting (2 Kgs 21:16) and 
perhaps upon the reports concerning King David's executions carried 
out by the means of saws (2 Sam 12:31; I Chron 20:3, cf. LXX). The 
tradition seems to be an early one. Of course, it is difficult to answer 
the question: How long did these texts and traditions exist before 
they were made into a composite work? An equally important dif- 
ficulty is the tradition's form and stage of development when the 
above ancient writers became acquainted with it: these early references 
do not necessarily refer to the same text or to the same form of the 
text which has been preserved today. 43 

division II, 3:144-45, and the new edition, revised and edited by G. Vermes, F. Millar 
and M. Goodman, 3/ l:337ff. 

42 The Testimony of Truth (IX, 3.40,105); quoted from James M. Robinson, The 
Nag Hammadi Library in English (New York: Harper and Row Publishers, 1977) 409- 
10 (referred to ahead as NHL). 

43 Cf. Flusser, "The Apocryphal Book of Ascensio Isaiae and the Dead Sea Sect," 
31. The difficult chronological problems of the text cannot be avoided. It is generally 
agreed that the present form of the text is not to be considered earlier than the second 
century (Charlesworth, 125-26). However, the various sections of the text appear to 
come from the first century. First it should be noted that the Testament of Hezekiah 
seems to be dependent on the Ascension of Isaiah (Chapter 3.13; cf. A. K. Helmbold, 
"Gnostic Elements in the 'Ascension of Isaiah,'" New Testament Studies 17 [1972] 
227). Then it must be observed that a union of three independent themes has occurred 
within the text: 1) Antichrist, 2) Beliar 3) Nero redivivus. Such a fusion of motifs 
would most probably have occurred not long after Nero's death (68 a.d.) and seem- 
ingly not much later than 100 a.d. Of course, one must maintain an open mind in 
dealing with texts that have a complex history like Ascensio Isaiae. (Cf. Charles, The 
Ascension of Isaiah, pp. li-lxxv; Danielou, 12ff.). See also M. A. Knibb, "Martyrdom 


The vision of Isaiah is contained in chapters six through eleven. 
This unit is properly called a vision because Isaiah goes into a trance 
and an angel from the seventh heaven comes to him. The text gives 
the following description: 

And while he [Isaiah] was speaking with the Holy Spirit in the hearing 
of them all, he became silent, and his mind was taken up from him, 
and he did not see the men who were standing before him. His eyes 
indeed were open, but his mouth was silent, and the mind in his body 
was taken up from him. But his breath was (still) in him, for he was 
seeing a vision. And the angel who was sent to show him (the vision) 
was not of this firmament, nor was he from the angels of glory of this 
world, but he came from the seventh heaven (Vl.lOff.) 4 

Thus Isaiah commences his vision and his ascent through the heaven- 
lies. Later Isaiah relates the vision to the king and the prophets, but 
not to the people (VI.16-17; XI.39). 

The text's view toward the structure of the cosmos fits well into 
its contemporary understanding of the heavenly spheres. The author 
describes seven heavens. His main concern is not to give a detailed 
description of the heavenlies, for unlike Slavonic Enoch he avoids 
elaborate descriptions of the heavens, the angels, or their tasks. The 
writer of Ascensio Isaiae makes little differentiation between the first 
five heavens. A throne is situated in the center of the sphere with 
angels on the left and angels on the right. 45 The angels on the right 

and Ascension of Isaiah," 149-50. Knibb views the martyrdom as coming from the end 
of the first century but prefers a second century date for the ascension. However, he 
follows Charles' argument quite closely and does not present compelling evidence to 
reject Charles' conclusion concerning the date, i.e., "Thus the composition of the 
Vision in its primitive form G belongs to the close of the first century" (Charles, 
Ascension, p. xlv). Indeed some form of the text of the Ascension of Isaiah may well 
have existed before the beginning of the second century. At least while the date cannot 
be determined with precision, nothing in the narrative points to a later time. 

Here the Ascension of Isaiah provides a description of the visionary's state while 
he is experiencing his vision. Few texts actually provide these details and this should be 
compared both to the Epistula Apostolorum (20-21, op. cit. n. 10) and also to Paul's 
description in 2 Cor 12:2, "... whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, 
God knows. And I know that this man was caught up into Paradise . . ." (see also n. 18 
above). Concerning the angel who appears to Isaiah, compare also Enoch 20:8 "Remiel, 
one of the holy angels, whom God set over those who rise" (Charles, The Book of 
Enoch, 44, see note on 20:8 as the text is missing in a number of manuscripts). In the 
present work, Knibb's translation of Ascensio Isaiae has been used (M. A. Knibb, 
"Martyrdom and Ascension of Isaiah," op. cit. n. 34; and see R. H. Charles, The 
Ascension of Isaiah, London: Adam and Charles Black, 1900) and compare E. Tisserant, 
Ascension d'Isaie (Paris, 1909). A new critical edition of the text would be highly 

4 While this on the whole is true, it should be noted that, in comparison with some 
other texts, the writer of the Ascension of Isaiah provides more information concerning 
the heavenly realms than some other similar narratives. 


are somewhat more glorious than those on the left side. The angels 
praise Him who sits on the throne in the seventh heaven (VII. 16- 
17). 46 The praise of the angels on the right is superior to the praise of 
the angels who occupy the left. As Isaiah ascends, the heavens be- 
come more glorious and the praise is more sublime. The higher 
heavens have more light than the lower heavens. One finds a dualism 
between light and darkness. For instance, in the sixth heaven Isaiah's 
angelic guide explains: "If you rejoice over this light, how much more 
(will you rejoice) in the seventh heaven when you see the light where 
the LORD is and his Beloved ..." (VIII. 25). As Isaiah relates the 
vision, he comments that on earth there is "much darkness" 4 when 
compared to the heavenly region. In the sixth heaven, the scene 
changes and all the angels look alike and their praise is alike. No 
throne is present. The power of the seventh heaven is so strong that it 
coordinates the functions of the sixth heavenly sphere. The angel 
makes this clear to Isaiah and explains: "... (they [angels of the 
sixth heaven] are directed) by the power of the seventh heaven, 
where the One who is not named dwells, and his Chosen One ..." 
(Chapter VIII.7). 

A similar structure of seven heavens is found in the Apocryphon 
of John. Yaldabaoth has fashioned for himself seven heavens with 
rulers for each realm. This text provides the following description: 
"And he [Yaldabaoth] placed seven kings — corresponding to the firma- 
ments of heaven — over the seven heavens and five over the depth of 
the abyss, that they may reign" (11,1.11.5). However, this cosmic 
structure is not unique to Gnosticism. Seven firmaments are also 
found in the Testament of Levi (according to some readings) and also 
in Slavonic Enoch. One of the homiletical midrashim Pesikta Derav 
Kahana describes the Divine Presence ascending and descending 
through the seven heavens. 50 The Midrash on Psalms indicates that 

46 This is stated in the first heaven. "And I asked the angel who lead me, and I said 
to him: 'To whom is this praise directed?' And he said to me, 'To the praise of [the One 
who sits in] the seventh heaven, the One who rests in the holy world, and to his 
Beloved, from where I was sent to you. To there it is directed.'" (Chapter VII. 16-17). 

47 The Ascension of Isaiah VIII. 24. 

48 Andrew K. Helmbold, "Gnostic Elements in the 'Ascension of Isaiah'", New 
Testament Studies 18 (1972) 225. 

"'Hermann L. Strack, Introduction to the Talmud and Midrash (New York: 
Atheneum, 1978) 210-11; and see now the extensive revision by G. Stemberger, 
Einleitung in Talmud und Midrasch (Munich: Beck, 1982) 270ff.; and cf. George F. 
Moore, Judaism in the First Centuries of the Christian Era (New York: Schocken 
Books, 1974), 1:168; and see the revision by G. Vermes and F. Millar of E. Schiirer, The 
History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 
1973), l:96f. 

50 Pesikta Derav Kahana, 1:1; Bernard Mandelbaum ed., Pesikta de Rav Kahana 
(New York: The Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 1962), 1:2. Cf. W. Braude 
and I. Kapstein trans., Pesikta- de-Rab- Kahana (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication 


there may have been a progressive development in the sages' under- 
standing concerning the celestial regions. It says that "our teachers" 
taught that there are two heavens on the basis of the verse in Psalms 
68:33 (34 in Hebrew), "To him that rideth upon the heaven of 
heavens" (KJV). The darshan continues that others maintained that 
there are three heavens, as it was said, "the heaven and heaven of 
heavens" (I Kings 8:27), but Rabbi Eleazer taught that there are seven 
heavens and then he names each one. 51 This idea was apparently well 
known for Rabbi Meir lists the seven firmaments in Avot de Rabbi 
Nathan and they also appear in other rabbinic texts. To support the 
theory that a conceptual development occurred, it should be noted 
that the Apostle Paul and an early recension of the Testament of Levi 
mention only three heavens. 53 The Ascension of Isaiah's seven celestial 
spheres is acceptable to a Jewish and to a Gnostic understanding of 

Society, 1975) 5-6. On the number of heavens, see also the important discussion of 
Tabor, Things Unutterable, 116ff. 

"The Midrash on Psalms, on Psalm 114:2, S. Buber, Midrash Tehilim (Israel, 
reprint 1977) 236a. Cf. W. Braude, trans; The Midrash on Psalms (New Haven: Yale 
University Press, 1959), 2:215. In a parallel passage to this text, the tradition is attributed 
to R. Jeremiah b. Eleazar which is probably due to scribal confusion (Yalkut Shimeoni, 
vol. 1, remez 855). The conception of seven heavens also appears in other midrashic 
texts: Yalkut Machiri on Ps 114:5 (parallel to Midrash on Psalms; also attributed to 
R. Eleazar) and on Ps 24:22 (Resh Lakish); Deuteronomy Rabbah 2:32 (Rav [probably a 
scribal error] says there are two heavens while R. Eleazar names seven); Leviticus 
Rabbah 29:11 (anonymous, cf. M. Margulies' excellent critical Hebrew edition, 3:680); 
cf. also Numbers Rabbah 12:17 (the amoraim R. Huna and R. Abin are mentioned in the 
context); Song of Songs Rabbah 6:4,2; Esther Rabbah 1:12 (see the English translations 
in H. Freedman, ed. Midrash Rabbah [Soncino, 1951]). In b. Chagigah 12b R. Judah 
(bar Ilai, one of Akiva's disciples?) says that there are two firmaments but the Amora 
from a later period, Resh Lakish claims that there are seven. See also following note. 

5 Avot Derabbi Natan, Recension A, Chapter 37, Solomon Schechter ed., Aboth 
de Rabbi Nathan (Israel, reprint, 1980) 55b. Cf. Judah Goldin trans., The Fathers 
according to Rabbi Nathan (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1956) chapter 37. Cf. 
some other Rabbinic passages that present a similar cosmology or are parallel to the 
above references: Pesikta Rabbati, 5 (Friedmann's edition, 18b); and see Friedmann's 
notes there. The Midrash on Psalms, Ps 92:2 (Buber's edition 201b); and see also the 
preceding note. Cf. P. Alexander, "3 (Hebrew Apocalypse of) Enoch," J. Charlesworth, 
ed. The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, l:239f. 

2 Cor 12:1-4; Paul says that he encountered Paradise in the third heaven. While 
this does not necessarily prove that according to Paul there were only three firmaments 
and no more, it seems that this indeed is Paul's cosmology. Moreover Charles sug- 
gested that the earlier version of the Testament of Levi contained three heavens and 
was later expanded to seven heavens (The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old 
Testament, 2:304). In 1 Enoch 14:8-18 one discovers a vision in which Enoch rises: 1) 
from the earth into the heavens; 2) through a wall of fire into a "house;" and finally 
3) into a second house wherein is located the divine throne. While Enoch was not 
primarily interested in describing heavenly geography, it must be observed that its 
description fits the three firmament conception quite well. While it seems reasonable 
that a system of a smaller number of heavens was later expanded, this is not absolutely 


the heavenlies and cannot be said to be distinct from the ancient 
world's view of the regions beyond. 54 

Nevertheless, the Ascension of Isaiah has some remarkable affini- 
ties to the Gnostic scheme. The thrones in the five lower heavens are 
occupied by the most glorious angel of that particular sphere. It 
seems that he leads the praise of the other angels and that he also 
determines who enters and who exits his celestial realm. This can be 
paralleled to the kings who reign in the seven heavens in the 
Apocryphon of John. The marked difference between the two schemes 
is that the seven celestial realms in Ascensio Isaiae seem to be in 
harmony with the Beloved, and He who is enthroned in the seventh 
heaven. While it is true that the power or influence of the seventh 
heaven decreases with each degree that is lower than the seventh 
heaven, the spiritual struggle is located in the earthly realm where the 
angels of Satan are in conflict and are said to be "envying one 
another." 55 This great disharmony is found in the lower terrestrial 
region. Indeed it is called the "alien world." 56 The lower firmament is 
viewed as having hostilities between the angelic beings. 57 In contrast 
to the Ascension of Isaiah, the Apocryphon of John views these seven 
cosmic regents to be united with Yaldabaoth in their rebellion against 
the highest deity. 

Another important element presented in Isaiah's vision is its 
concept of the trinity. Isaiah's vision shows the primitive stage of an 
emerging trinitarian formulation. The text's expression of the trinity 
may be summed up in the words of Isaiah: "And I rejoiced very much 
that those who love the Most High and his Beloved will at their end 
go up there through the angel of the Holy Spirit." 58 In the sixth 
heaven Isaiah exclaims, "and there they all named the primal Father 

certain and more research is needed. For instance, though not directly connected, one 
may compare the ancient Egyptian belief in the dangerous journey of the soul passing 
from life into death through the numerous gates which involved dealing with the 
different gatekeepers (see Zandee, Death as an Enemy, 25-31, 112-25 [especially 123]; 
H. Goedicke, "The Egyptian Idea of Passing from Life to Death," Orientalia 24 [1955] 
225-39; cf. J. Bonomi and S. Sharpe, The Alabaster Sarcophagus of Oimenephtah 1 
(London, 1864); A. de Buck and A.H. Gardiner, The Egyptian Coffin Texts [University 
of Chicago, 1935] and cf. also n. 13 above concerning the Greek view of death). 
Bousset, 234, saw Iranian influence reflected in this cosmology. 

55 The Ascension of Isaiah VII. 9. 

56 Ibid., VI.9. 

57 J. Danielou has pointed out the background of this belief, "Besides Satan and his 
angels there are the lower demons, the Tivsuucrca. I Enoch saw them as the souls of the 
giants who had been born of the union of the Watchers and the daughters of men, and 
Justin accepted this explanation (// Apol. v, 2-6) as did Athenagoras (Suppl. 1,24). It 
occurs in the Clementine Homilies (VIII. 18). Whatever origin is ascribed to them, 
however, these demons live in the atmosphere surrounding the earth," idem, 190-91. 
The Ascension of Isaiah VII.23. 


and His Beloved, 'the Christ' and the Holy Spirit all with one voice." 59 
The Beloved is identified as Christ and the Most High is the Father. 
Perhaps the most interesting element in the formulation is the under- 
standing of the Spirit as an angel. One of the functions assigned to 
the angel of the Holy Spirit is to guide the righteous through the 
heavens. 60 All three are worshipped. 

Helmbold has tried to show some of the "Gnostic elements" that 
are found in the Ascension of Isaiah. In his article, he points to 
similar trinitarian doctrines in the Nag Hammadi literature. One of 
his examples is from the Apocryphon of John (II, 1.2. 13f): 

You are not unfamiliar with this likeness are you? That is to say, be not 
timid. I am the one who [is with you (pi.)] for ever. I [am the Father], I 
am the Mother, I am the Son. I am the unpolluted and incorruptible 

A similar passage is found in the Gospel of the Egyptians (111,2:41,9): 

Three powers come forth from him; they are the Father, the Mother 
(and) the Son, from the living silence, what come forth from the 
incorruptible Father. These [came forth] from the silence of the un- 
known Father. 

These texts provide the normal trinitarian formulation from the Nag 
Hammadi literature, namely the Father, the Mother, and the Son. 
The Mother replaces the Holy Spirit. This development is of course a 
radical deviation from the texts in Ascensio Isaiae where the formula- 
tion appears to be based upon some early Christian tradition (cf. 
Didache 7:1) or perhaps even upon the one widespread reading from 
the gospel of Matthew where this well-known baptismal formula is 
stated, "... baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son 
and the Holy Spirit." 63 

However, it is of great interest that the Gospel of the Hebrews 
contains a passage that links the Holy Spirit to the mother of Jesus. 

59 Ibid., VIII.18. 

60 Ibid., VII.23. 

61 Ibid., IX.27-36. 

62 Helmbold, 224. 
Matt 28:19 (ASV). The original reading of this text probably did not contain this 
formula, see the critical apparatus in the 25th edition of K. Aland's Greek text and his 
Synopsis Quattuor Evangeliorum. As David Flusser suggested, the better text and 
earlier reading was, "... teaching all nations in my name" (according to the readings 
of Eusebius before the Council of Ancyra — cf. Flusser, "The Conclusion of Matthew," 
Annual of the Swedish Theological Institute 5 [1967] 1 10-20). For no apparent reason, 
this text has been deleted from the 26th edition of the Nestle-Aland Greek New 


Origen and Jerome both quote this narrative a number of times in 
their commentaries, "Even so did my [the Savior's] mother, the Holy 
Spirit, take me by one of the hairs of my head and carry me away to 
the great mountain Tabor." Perhaps the designation of the Holy 
Spirit as the mother developed from speculation surrounding the 
incarnation of Jesus or even because the grammatical gender of the 
word spirit in Hebrew is usually feminine. The Apocryphon of John 
calls the Holy Spirit the "mother of the living." This passage describes 
how the Sophia of the Epinoia created "the likeness of himself" 
without the consent of the Spirit. Afterwards: 

. . . she surrounded it with a luminous cloud, and she placed a throne 
in the middle of the cloud that no one might see it except the Holy 
Spirit who is called the mother of the living. And she called his name 
Yaltabaoth. 65 

The notion of the Holy Spirit being an angel can also be paral- 
leled in the Jewish Christian sect of the Elkesaites. Hippolytus pro- 
vides the account that a huge angel some ninety six miles high had 
reportedly revealed a book to Elchasai. This male angel was accom- 
panied by a female angel. He writes, "The male is the son of God but 
the female is called the Holy Spirit." 66 Here, the Elkesaites not only 
view the Holy Spirit as an angel, but as a feminine angel as well. The 
identification of the Holy Spirit with an angel or with a female figure 
such as the mother of Jesus seems to be connected in some way to an 
early Jewish Christian theology. 

The last item to be observed about the ascension is Isaiah's 
transformation. Isaiah's form undergoes a change as he ascends to 
each sphere. Isaiah exclaimed to his angelic guide, "And I said to the 
angel who (was with me), for the glory of my face was being trans- 
formed as I went up from heaven to heaven, 'Nothing of the vanity of 
that world is named here'" (Ascensio Isaiae VII. 25). The leader of the 
praise in the sixth heaven restrains Isaiah from entering the seventh 
heaven because of his garment. Once he has received the proper 

4 P. Vielhauer, "Jewish-Christian Gospels," in E. Hennecke and W. Schneemelcher, 
eds., New Testament Apocrypha, 1:160 and also especially p. 164 where the passage is 
quoted. Vielhauer cites the following references: Origen, Com. on Jn. 11.12; Horn, on 
Jer. XV. 4; Jerome, Com. on Micah 7:6; Com. on Isa. 40:9; Com. on Ez. 16.13. 

61 The Apocryphon of John (II, 1, 10.9f.), NHL, 104. 

66 Hippolytus, refutatio omn. haer., Prol. IX, 13.1-3; Epiphanius Pan. 19.4,1 and 
53.1,9; and see F. J. Klijn and G. J. Reinink, Patristic Evidence for Jewish- Christian 
Sects (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1973) 56, 114, 115, 158, 159, 196, 197; cf. Danielou, 65. 

67 Here, it should also be noted that Origen and Jerome quote what has been 
named the "Gospel of the Hebrews" as identifying the Holy Spirit with the Savior's 
mother. Furthermore, the Elkesaites viewed the Holy Spirit as a feminine angel in the 


garment from the Beloved, he enters. Again he undergoes transforma- 
tions to join in the angels' praise. 68 Likewise, when the Beloved 
descends, he also undergoes transformation. The idea of Christ's 
physical metamorphosis is already alluded to in the so-called Christo- 
logical hymns. Thus in Phil 2:6-9a one reads, 

. . . who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality 
with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form 
of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in 
human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, 
even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him . . . 69 

Here the word uop(pf| is very significant. Christ was transformed 
"taking on the form of a servant." Moreover in Ascensio Isaiae his 
descent is hidden from the five lower heavens and also from the 
terrestrial realm. This seems to go back to an early Christian tradition 
which teaches that Christ's identity was concealed from the god of 
this world.™ This teaching may be reflected in Paul's first Epistle to 
the Corinthians, "... none of the rulers of this age has understood; 

passage quoted above. The quotations from the Nag Hammadi texts omit the Holy 
Spirit in their trinitarian formulations. Instead, "the Mother" appears. Thus one 
discovers a connection between the Gnostic texts and the so-called "Jewish-Christian" 
Gospel of the Hebrews and the Elkesaites. Nevertheless the early Christian traditions 
concerning the birth of Jesus could possibly have caused similar independent inter- 
pretations by different sects. Various approaches can be found among scholars when 
they try to define Jewish Christianity. Of course the sources compiled by A. Klijn and 
G. Reinink, Patristic Evidence for Jewish- Christian Sects, have greatly contributed to 
research; and cf. Hans-Joachim Schoeps, Jewish Christianity (Philadelphia: Fortress 
Press, 1969) 9ff.; Danielou, 7ff.; Jakob Jocz, The Jewish People and Jesus Christ 
(Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1979) 146ff.; the important study by S. Pines, The 
Jewish Christians of the Early Centuries of Christianity according to a New Source 
(Jerusalem: The Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, 1966); and the un- 
published doctoral dissertation by R. Pritz, "The Jewish Christian Sect of the Naza- 
renes" (Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 1981; a revised version is currently being 
prepared by Magnes Press). For more bibliography, see P. Vielhauer, "Jewish Chris- 
tian Gospels," E. Hennecke and W. Schneemelcher, eds., New Testament Apocrypha, 

The Ascension of Isaiah IX. 30. 

Flusser suggested that the transformation of the Beloved in the descent is already 
alluded to in the so-called Christological hymns whose sources are probably pre- 
Pauline. The same idea is expressed in the Epistula Apostolorum 14 which is re- 
markably similar to Ascensio Isaiae. (See H. Duensing, "Epistula Apostolorum," 
E. Hennecke and W. Schneemelcher, eds., New Testament Apocrypha, 1:197-98). The 
idea of transformation in both texts was noted by Duensing, ibid., 190 and see also 
M. Hornschuh, Studien zur Epistula Apostolorum (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1965) 2ff. 

The Ascension of Isaiah X. lOff. 


for if they had understood it, they would not have crucified the 

The infrastructure of ideas, the concept of the world, and some 
basic elements in Isaiah's vision could be easily transferred into a 
fully developed Gnostic framework. However a Gnostic believer would 
feel that the author of Ascensio Isaiae was not fully enlightened. The 
text could quite possibly have been used by Jewish Christian orders, 
Christian groups, or semi-Gnostic sects. 72 


The intriguing Nag Hammadi tractate, The Apocalypse of Paul, 
describes Paul's heavenly journey to the tenth heaven. He is directed 
through the cosmic regions by the spirit who acts as his celestial guide 
and helps him pass the gatekeeper in the seventh heaven. 3 The gate- 
keeper is called the old man and he tries to prevent Paul from 
completing his journey and returning to his fellow spirits in the tenth 
heavenly domain. The other twelve apostles are mentioned, but it 
seems that Paul is given priority over them. 74 A preference for Paul 

I Cor 2:8 (ASV). The position that "the rulers of this age" refers to demonic 
powers has recently been challenged by G. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians 
(Grand Rapids: Eerdmanns, 1987) 103-4, and see especially n. 22. 

72 The semi-Christian groups are those v/ho could accept a Docetic view of Christ 
(The Ascension of Isaiah XI). Gnostic groups may have used the text, but the point here 
is that the Ascension of Isaiah itself is not a Gnostic text. The Gnostic would sense that 
the author did not know some essential facts, e.g., the division of the deity (cf. R. McL. 
Wilson, "Jewish Christianity and Gnosticism," Rechereches de Science Religieuse 60 
(1972) 263f. and Hans Jonas' discussion in J. P. Hyatt, The Bible in Modern Scholar- 
ship [London: Kingsgate Press, 1966] 286ff.). While not all Jews were very knowledge- 
able about their religious traditions, it seems quite probable that the text was compiled 
by a Jewish Christian. One can observe that the text is set in the atmosphere of Jewish 
apocalyptic. The cosmology, the angelology, the throne room, the angelic guide, and 
other elements all have antecedents in Jewish literature. This does not mean that they 
are uniquely Jewish. Yet, the culminative impression given by the text is inescapable. 
Also, the identification of the Holy Spirit with an angel is not without its significance 
(cf. Box, p. xxv). At this point, the author can only concur with Box's suggestion, 
"... the 'Vision' (vi-xi) was, at the earliest, composed at the latter end of the first 
century a.d., and probably by a Jewish Christian" (Box, p. xxlv). The reasons for an 
early date for the sources of the ascension have been noted above (n. 43). Danielou 
views the text as coming from the first century (the period between Nero's death and 80 
or 90) and postulates Jewish Christian authorship. Other scholars hold to the view that 
the vision was a Christian composition (Charles, p. viii; Charlesworth, 125-26; 
J. Flemming and H. Duensing, 643). 

11 The Apocalypse of Paul V, 2:18, 20; Ibid., V,2:23, 2-30. 
This point is debatable. For instance, the other apostles arrive in the tenth 
heaven ahead of Paul. However, the whole narrative revolves around Paul's experience. 
It is Paul who successfully leads the conflict with the old man figure. Is it possible that 


may be identified as a Valentinian feature. 75 The narrative is con- 
cerned with Paul's ascent and transformation into a spiritual being. 
The translators have noted three different episodes in the text: 1) an 
epiphany scene, 2) a judgment scene, and 3) the ascension motif. 

In the epiphany scene Paul meets a small child on the mountain 
of Jericho, as he is traveling to Jerusalem. Apparently, the small 
child symbolizes Christ. This view is proposed by the translators who 
point to other similar texts that parallel this thought, where a child 
represents Christ {Apocryphon of John BG 2 20, 19-21,4; Acts of 
John 88). 78 

The narrative of the epiphany scene appears to echo Paul's 
Epistle to the Galatians. 79 In this letter, Paul explains that he received 
the gospel through the revelation of Jesus Christ (&7TOKa?a3i|/£a)c; 
'Ir|oo0 XpiaxoO). 80 The title of this codex, the Apocalypse of Paul, 
therefore reflects Paul's term apocalypsis in Galatians. The city of 
Jerusalem also appears in both narratives. As the passage in Galatians 
continues, Paul did not go up to Jerusalem immediately, in order to 
have his message approved by the other apostles; only later did he 
make his way to Jerusalem and meet with Peter and James. Another 
point of contact between Galatians and the Apocalypse of Paul is 
Paul's conversation with the young child. The child designates Paul 
as the one who was blessed from his mother's womb. 81 This expres- 
sion from the epiphany scene apparently comes directly from Paul's 

his confrontation with the old man enables the others to ascend {The Apocalypse of 
Paul V, 2:23, 30-24,2)? At one point during the journey, Paul passes the other apostles 
who were before him (ibid. 22, 14-16). In short, it seems that Paul is given prominence 
over the other apostles (cf. William Murdock and George MacRae, "The Apocalypse 
of Paul," James Robinson ed., Nag Hammadi Codices (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1979) 48-49 
(noted ahead as NHC). 

5 NHC, 49; George MacRae and William Murdock, "The Apocalypse of Paul," 
NHL, 239. 

16 NHC, 48. Cf. Klauck, "Die Himmelfahrt des Paulus (2 Kor 12,2-4) in der 
koptischen Paulusapokalypse aus Nag Hammadi (NHC V/2)," 167. 

The Apocalypse of Paul V,2:18, 5-16; 19,12; cf. with translators note on V,2: 
18.5. The significance of Jericho is unclear. The writer of the apocalypse is acquainted 
with the route from Jericho to Jerusalem. Whether he was indeed familiar with the 
geography of Palestine cannot be ascertained from this evidence because he could have 
known this travel route from other sources (for example Luke 10:29-37). For the 
significance of Jerusalem, cf. Klauck, "Die Himmelfahrt des Paulus (2 Kor 12,2-4) in 
der koptischen Paulusapokalypse aus Nag Hammadi (NHC V/2)," 185-86. 

U NHC, 48; NHL, 239. Compare also Epiphanius, Pan., 30.3,6 (F. J. Klijn and 
G. J. Reinink, Patristic Evidence for Jewish- Christian Sects, 178-79) where some of 
the members of Jewish-Christian sects are said to have believed that the Spirit who is 
Christ had come upon the boy Jesus. 

79 Ibid. 

80 Gal 1:12. 

81 The Apocalypse of Paul V,2: 18, 12-14. 


Galatian letter, "But He who had set me apart, even from my mother's 
womb, and called me through His grace was pleased to reveal His 
Son in me" (Gal l:15-16a ASV). 

In the epiphany episode, not only does the young child serve as a 
figure of Christ, but he also has another important significance in the 
text: he identifies himself as the Spirit. Functioning as a leader or as a 
semi-divine guide, the Spirit accompanies Paul during his revelation 
and during his ascent through the heavens. This spirit is also referred 
to as the Holy Spirit. 82 

The writer of the Apocalypse of Paul does not give an extensive 
description of the heavenlies. In this respect, the Ascension of Isaiah 
provides a much fuller picture of each celestial realm. Here, the text 
skips the first three heavens entirely and takes Paul to the fourth 
heaven. It is difficult to determine if this is an actual journey or only a 
revelation. Unfortunately, the first part of the text has not been 
recovered or it might have alleviated this difficulty. Nor is it possible 
to know exactly when the journey occurs. Nevertheless, it may be 
cautiously presumed that this is an interpretation of Paul's experience 
which he describes in his second epistle to the Corinthian congrega- 
tion. Even though this is true, in the Corinthian passage, Paul reports 
that he was lifted up into the third heaven, which is contrary to the 
Nag Hammadi document where he passes through the seventh heaven 
to Ogdoad and continues rising on to the tenth celestial realm. It may 
be conjectured that the author did not consider the evil domain of the 
old man in his mathematical formulation and only started counting 
the heavens at the point in which Paul was liberated at Ogdoad. 

The judgment and punishment motif has been gleaned from 
Jewish apocalyptic and seems to be dependent upon the Testament of 
Abraham.* 1 The Testament of Abraham presents several textual and 
redactional problems, 84 but the core material of the book seems to go 
back to a Jewish provenance and is probably based on Semitic 
sources. 85 The present form of the text has been re-edited and 
redacted, as is indicated from the two recensions. Christian influences 

82 Ibid., 18,20; 19,20-26. 
One other example besides the Testament of Abraham (chapter 10) can be found 
in 1 Enoch 56. 1-3. 

M. R. James, The Testament of Abraham (Wiesbaden, Germany: Krauss Reprint 
Limited, 1967) 54-55. See now G. Nickelsburg, Studies in the Testament of Abraham 
(Missoula, Montana: Society of Biblical Literature, 1976). 

85 G. H. Box, The Testament of Abraham (London: SPCK, 1927), p. xv. Stone has 
made a new translation based on James' Greek text cited above (n. 65). Michael Stone, 
The Testament of Abraham (Missoula, Montana: The Society of Biblical Literature, 
1972). Now the theory of a Semitic original for the Testament of Abraham has been 
seriously questioned, E. P. Sanders, "Testament of Abraham," J. Charlesworth, ed., 
The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (New York: Doubleday, 1983), 1:873-74. 


have been introduced into the text. 86 The motif as it appears in the 
Apocalypse of Paul is more similar to the longer recension of the 
Testament of Abraham, which James and Box consider to be, gen- 
erally speaking, less original than the shorter recension. 87 The trans- 
lators of the Apocalypse of Paul noted that the judgment section in 
the Coptic version of the Testament of Abraham is even more similar 
to the Apocalypse's version. 

Paul's ascent begins with the young child asking Paul to let his 
mind awaken. 89 During the ascent, Paul is instructed to view his 
likeness upon the earth. 90 Apparently, this is to answer the exegetical 
question that arises from Paul's account of his ascension experience 
in the Corinthian letter. Paul wrote that he was uncertain whether he 
had remained in his body or whether he had arisen out of his body. 
At the beginning of the Apocalypse narrative, the twelve apostles are 
above or ahead of Paul; however, in the sixth heaven Paul passes 
them. 92 Because he passes the twelve, the text appears to exalt Paul 
above the other apostles, although they arrive at the tenth heaven 
ahead of him. However, Paul is the one who contends with the old 
man in the seventh sphere and this may be what allows the twelve to 
go on before him. This indicates that Paul still occupies a prominent 
position in relation to the remaining apostles. Moreover, the entire 
narrative centers around Paul and the twelve are of secondary im- 

i • 93 

portance to him. 

Naturally, the most important aspect of the text is Paul's trans- 
formation into a spiritual being. The old man of the seventh heaven 
appears to be connected to the evil God of Israel who is enthroned on 
high in Jewish literature. 4 Here he is the Demiurge figure who tries 
to prevent Paul from completing his journey. 95 He asked Paul where 
he is going. Paul answers with the phrase, "I am going to the place 
from which I came." This, of course, is an important element in the 

86 James, 50-55. 
Box, The Testament of Abraham, p. xii; James, 49. 

^NHC, 48. Unfortunately, the Coptic version of the Testament of Abraham was 
unavailable to this author, but when the text was discussed with George MacRae, he 
reiterated the point. Namely, the Coptic Version of the short recension of the Testament 
of Abraham (Chapter 10) forms the basis for the Nag Hammadi codex. It should also 
be noted that such a judgment motif is not unusual in Jewish apocalyptic (e.g., Enoch 

89 The Apocalypse of Paul V,2: 18,22; 19, 10. 

90 Ibid., 19,26-32. 

91 2Cor 12:3. 

92 The Apocalypse of Paul V,2:22, 14-16. 

93 See nn. 74, 75 above. 

94 Isa6:lff.; 1 Enoch 14:17ff. 

95 NHC, 48-49. 

96 The Apocalypse of Paul V,2:23, 8-10. 


Gnostic religion; the divine spark has to make its ascent back to the 
highest deity. 97 After Paul passes through Ogdoad, the eighth sphere, 
and the ninth celestial region, he enters the tenth heaven where he is 
greeted by the now transformed apostles, his fellow spirits. 98 Thus, 
Paul and the apostles have undergone transformation into spiritual 

One fascinating but bold question remains to be asked about this 
text: What is the author's motive? Of course, the question of motive 
or intention is not answered satisfactorily or with a great amount of 
confidence. One suggestion is that the author had an exegetical motive 
in mind. His interest to enlarge or to interpret an unclear or an 
obscure passage of the New Testament has been observed in his 
treatment of the Pauline epistles. He wants to fill in the missing 
details. The second suggestion is that the author wrote from a po- 
lemical concern. 99 This theme is seen in his conflict with the old man 
who best represents the God of Israel. Indeed, the Father who rules 
the seventh heaven in Ascensio Isaiae has been transformed into a 
Demiurge figure. Of course, other possibilities exist. The author 
develops various themes around his exegetical interests, but the 
polemical interest is quite prominent. 


A cosmological structure, a conceptual frame of reference and 
literary connections clearly exist between the Apocalypse of Paul and 
Ascensio Isaiae. The cosmic structure of the universe in both texts is 
very similar. The Ascension of Isaiah has seven heavens while the 
Apocalypse of Paul has ten. By way of comparison, both texts have a 
region that is hostile to the supreme deity. By way of contrast, the 
Apocalypse of Paul has seven realms dominated by a Demiurge figure 
which is counter to the Ascension of Isaiah which lacks a fully 
developed Demiurge character. The Ascension of Isaiah exhibits only 
the terrestrial realm as being involved in a spiritual struggle contrary 
to the Father and the Beloved in the seventh heaven. This realm 
contains demons with a hierarchy of powers. In addition, the judg- 
ment and punishment motif distinguishes the Apocalypse of Paul 
from Isaiah's vision. Instead of angels punishing a soul, the angels in 
the Ascension of Isaiah praise the One enthroned in the seventh 
heaven. This is the primary theme in Isaiah's celestial regions. In spite 

97 See the discussions e.g., H. Jonas, The Gnostic Religion (Boston: Beacon Press, 
1963) 35; Grant, Gnosticism and Early Christianity, 7-8; and Rudolph, Gnosis, 171ff. 

9i The Apocalypse of Paul V,2:23,30; 24, 1-8. 

"The author is grateful to have had the opportunity to discuss this text with 
George MacRae and for his helpful insights. 


of the differences, the Ascension of Isaiah and the Apocalypse of Paul 
are constructed upon the same basic cosmology. 

The texts also seem to be closely related conceptually. The con- 
cept of ascent and transformation is strong in both narratives. Paul 
ascends to be changed into a spiritual being. Isaiah, on the other 
hand, ascends to see the unknown heavenly world and to view the 
hidden descent of the Beloved. Isaiah returns to share the vision with 
the prophets, but Paul is absorbed into spiritual reality. Isaiah is 
transformed as he enters each new level of the firmaments, but Paul's 
transformation occurs as he enters the regions beyond the old man's 
domain. An anti-Jewish polemic apparently underlies the old man 
figure in the Apocalypse of Paul. Likewise, an anti-Jewish tendency 
surfaces in Ascensio Isaiae. For instance, Isaiah instructs that the 
vision cannot be entrusted to the people of Israel. 1 Another passage 
describes how Satan aroused the people of Israel to have the Beloved 
crucified because they did not know his true identity. 101 This primitive 
anti-Jewish propaganda is unfortunate indeed, but it is still far re- 
moved from the notion that the God of Israel should be identified 
with a Demiurge figure. 

Other mutual literary connections attest to the relationship be- 
tween the two narratives. The Ascension of Isaiah teaches that the 
angel of the Holy Spirit will lead the righteous (those who love the 
Beloved) through the heavenlies. 102 Notably, Paul's ascension guide is 
called the Holy Spirit. 103 Another connection is that Isaiah's mind 
was taken from his body at the beginning of his vision. This is 
parallel to the instruction that Paul received to allow his mind (voOc;) 
to awaken. In 2 Corinthians Paul also speaks about being "out of 
the body." Here both the Apocalypse of Paul and the Ascension of 
Isaiah relate the mind to the experience of ascent. As Paul is restrained 
at the entrance to Ogdoad, so also is Isaiah delayed at the threshold 
of the seventh heaven. Paul looks to his guiding spirit who tells him 
to give the signal to the old man and then he enters Ogdoad. 10 This 
sign functions as some kind of password that forces the old man to 
open the gate. Isaiah, on the other hand, is given the proper garment 
and then his entrance is allowed. His angelic guide explains that the 
leader of praise in the sixth heaven delayed Isaiah until he received 
the proper garment. Along this same line, it is remembered that Paul 

The Ascension of Isaiah XI. 39. 
'Ibid., XI. 19. 
! Ibid., VII. 23. 

l The Apocalypse of Paul V,2:18, 20; 19, 20-26. 
*The Ascension of Isaiah VI. 10-1 1. 
5 The Apocalypse of Paul V, 2:18,22; 19, 10. 
5 Ibid., 24, 1-30; The Ascension of Isaiah IX. 1-5. 
'The Apocalypse of Paul V,2:23, 20-26. 


orders the toll collector to open the gate of the sixth heaven. 1 As 
noted above, Paul was required to give the special signal to cross into 
Ogdoad. Similarly, in reverse fashion, the Beloved gives the proper 
watchword to enter the three lower celestial realms during his descent 
to earth. 109 The purpose here, is not to suggest a literary dependence 
of one of these texts on the other. However the connections between 
these texts suggest that they developed in a similar religious climate. 
It is reasonable to assume that the Ascension of Isaiah represents an 
earlier stage of religious thought than that presented in the Apocalypse 
of Paul. 

Ascensio Isaiae betrays earlier Jewish sources which have been 
employed in a Christian work. First, it should be remembered that 
the Ascension of Isaiah is an expansion of an early Jewish text no 
longer independently extant concerning Isaiah's tragic fate. Second, 
the entire cosmological system of the text can be paralleled in Jewish 
apocalyptic literature. Third, the concept of the Holy Spirit being an 
angel can also be seen in Jewish Christian sects. Danielou and Box 
have suggested that Ascensio Isaiae was written by a Jewish Chris- 
tian and as already noted this approach has much to commend 
itself. 111 Even though this theory concerning the authorship of Ascen- 
sio Isaiae is sound, it is not absolutely certain. These issues could 
conceivably have captured a non-Jewish writer's imagination who 
could have obtained Jewish sources for his work. In some ways the 
work resembles a targumic expansion or a free midrash loosely based 
upon Isaiah and it addresses matters which are related to Jewish 
Christian theological concerns. While admittedly these issues would 
also have interested some non- Jewish Christians, the combination of 
all these elements suggests that the final compiler of Ascensio Isaiae 
was indeed a Jewish Christian. 112 

The Apocalypse of Paul seems to have shared a common reli- 
gious background with the Ascension of Isaiah. The Apocalypse of 
Paul has a structure that can be paralleled in Jewish Apocalyptic. The 
author is acquainted with some form of the Testament of Abraham. 
The mention of three witnesses in the judgment scene can be found in 
Jewish sources. 113 But all of these elements could have come into the 
text second hand, through Christian influence. If one would accept 

,U8 Ibid., 22, 18-22. 

109 The Ascension of Isaiah X. 24-29. It should also be noted that the four sages 
are also put to the test, see n. 10 above. 

1 The similarities between the texts are greater than one might assume at the first 
examination of the texts. 

'"Box, The Ascension of Isaiah, p. xxv; Danielou, 12ff. 
"See n. 72 above. 

w The Apocalypse of Paul ' V ,2:20,20-21,22; Num 35:30; Deut 17:6; 19:15; compare 
tos. Sanhedrin 11:1 and parallels; Matt 18:16. 


the difficult challenge to try to define this influence more narrowly, 
the outcome would probably point to some form of a Jewish Chris- 
tian theology. At least, the latent sleeping Gnostic framework in the 
Ascension of Isaiah is awakened and fully developed in the Apocalypse 
of Paul. Could the beliefs of early Jewish Christian groups 114 have 
played a role in blossoming Gnostic religious thought? 


The study of the Ascension Motif in selected Jewish, Christian 
and Gnostic texts suggests certain stages of development. Paul's reve- 
lations, to a lesser extent in Acts but particularly his ascent to 
Paradise in the third heaven, present the personal testimony of mysti- 
cal experience. Even though he hears words that cannot be uttered 
and receives a message so significant for his own work, there is no 
hint of an exclusivistic esotericism in his account or that he expe- 
rienced great danger in his sublime encounter. In talmudic literature, 
the four rabbis also enter DT1S and only Akiva returns unharmed. 
Isaiah, the Beloved, and Paul undergo transformation in Ascensio 
Isaiae and Apocalypse of Paul, whereas neither Paul nor the rabbis 
do in 2 Corinthians and talmudic literature. 

Hence, Ascensio Isaiae introduces a new stage. Although an 
exegetical interest is prominent and the descent of the Beloved is of 

114 Whether Jewish Christianity actually provided the matrix for Gnosticism re- 
mains an open question. Nonetheless many of the ideas of "classical Gnosticism" 
preceded the rise of Christianity. W. W. Combs, "Nag Hammadi, Gnosticism, & New 
Testament Interpretation" GTJ 8:2 (Fall 1987) 195-212. See for instance the difference 
between Eugnostos the Blessed and the Sophia of Jesus Christ (NHL, 206-28). 
D. Parrot may be correct when he suggests that the version of Eugnostos the Blessed 
existed before the text was adapted to have the risen Christ teach his followers 
revelation in the Sophia of Jesus Christ (NHL, 206). But is Parrot correct in saying 
that the Eugnostos is free from Christian influence? The question is discussed by 
R. McL. Wilson, Gnosis and the New Testament (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1968) 111-17. 
Whether the Eugnostos the Blessed is to be dated before the rise of Christianity or is 
free from Christian influence is debatable. Wilson observes, "At the very least, however, 
they [some seemingly Christian terms in the text] seem to demand a due measure of 
caution over against assertions that Eugnostos is entirely non-Christian or shows no 
sign of Christian influence. There is nonetheless a further possibility: is the Epistle of 
Eugnostos itself a Christianised version of an earlier document?" (ibid., 116). See also 
the analytical discussion of E. Yamauchi, Pre-Christian Gnosticism, 104-7. 

" 5 Here it is worthwhile to quote Wilson who speaks about a possible environment 
that would have provided a seedbed for Gnostic thought, "At least, one could say that 
there existed a great variety of thought-forms and tendencies, which are generally 
classified in the quite vague category of Gnosis. The 'classical' gnosticism of the second 
century is a consequence of these currents. In an attempt to show that Gnosis had its 
Sitz-im-Leben in a Christian milieu, inspired by Jewish-Christian apocalyptic, Danielou 
has rightly drawn our attention to the fact that Jewish Christianity was a factor in the 
development of the ideas from which a precise gnostic system was formed" (Wilson, 259). 


prime importance, one discovers the motif of metaphysical transfor- 
mation which is already alluded to in the Christological hymns. 116 An 
angelic guide is required in order for Isaiah to make the ascent and of 
course such guides are well known in Jewish apocalyptic. However, in 
the Apocalypse of Paul, one enters a new phase where the mysteries 
and the dangers of the heavenly regions become patent. The Apostle 
Paul becomes involved in the conflict with the old man figure and it 
seems that a basic mystical experience has been used in a developing 
doctrine of esotericism and rebellion against the old man figure who 
seems to represent the God of Israel. The text emphasizes the special 
knowledge required to make the ascent through the hostile celestial 
spheres in order to join the fellow spirits. The one making the journey 
must know how to avoid being deceived by the Demiurge in the 
seventh heaven. 


From this study of the heavenly ascent in mystical speculation, it 
is clear that the stages that make a distinction between a mystical 
experience and a sophisticated doctrine of esotericism can provide an 
instructive heuristic for further research. No doubt the exact relation- 
ship between merkabah mysticism and gnosticizing ideas in Jewish, 
Christian and Gnostic texts will continue to be a current issue in 
scholarly debate. In the very least, the present textual study suggests 
that the differences between these texts are of far greater significance 
than are the similarities. 

116 See n. 69 above. 

Grace Theological Journal 9.1 (1988) 105-127 




Douglas A. Oss 

Since the canon of Scripture is a unified literary work, the sensus 
plenior of a given text is simply that which emerges when the text is 
subjected to the light of all of biblical revelation. Thus the use of 
sensus plenior as a hermeneutical method does not involve allegori- 
zation or eisegesis, but involves discerning in a text all the strata of 
meaning that the canonical context warrants. The progress of revela- 
tion dictates that the meaning of scriptural texts became deeper and 
clearer as the canon unfolded. The exegete, by considering the Bible 
as an integrated whole, reaches a fuller understanding of individual 
texts of Scripture. That fuller understanding involves strata of mean- 
ing, all of which the author expressed, whether or not he intended to 
express them. 


Even a cursory reading of recent literature treating the topic of 
evangelical hermeneutics reveals the intensity of the debate sur- 
rounding the use of sensus plenior in the process of interpretation and 
in the construction of a systematic theology. At issue for many 
evangelicals is the authority of God's word and the normative signifi- 
cance of theology. Should the meaning of Scripture be restricted to 
the results of a rigid grammatical-historical exegesis? Or is there a 
deeper meaning that goes beyond the results of grammatical-historical 
analysis? If a deeper meaning exists, how does one ascertain what 
precisely it is? What is the relationship between the divine author's 
meaning and the human author's meaning? These are a few of the 
concerns that recently have been raised in the evangelical community 
with respect to sensus plenior. 

'Cf., for example, D. A. Carson, "Hermeneutics: A Brief Assessment of Some 
Recent Trends," Themelios 5 (1980) 11-20; J. D. G. Dunn, "Levels of Canonical 


Since God has chosen to communicate through Scripture, one 
must assume that his method of communication is adequate, and 
therefore comprehensible. This perspective, however, does not resolve 
the dilemma over hermeneutical methodology, namely determining 
the most effective and accurate method for understanding biblical 
texts. It is the thesis of this article that a circumspect and judicious 
use of sensus plenior should be part of a proper hermeneutical meth- 
odology. The discussion presented below will, therefore, propose 
some legitimate functions for sensus plenior in evangelical hermeneu- 
tics. Before turning to the functional aspects of the method, however, 
the term needs to be clearly defined. Its diverse connotations have 
resulted in much confusion. 


The definition offered for purposes of this discussion will be 
functional in scope. That is, it will be concerned with defining the 
methodological aspects of sensus plenior in terms of its hermeneutical 
role rather than with the theological or ecclesiastical aspects which so 
many associate with the term. 

A proper sensus plenior 3 must be distinguished from allegory. 
The method does not consist of unbridled, imaginative eisegesis and 

Authority," Horizons in Biblical Theology 4 (1982) 13-60; W. C. Kaiser, Jr., "Evan- 
gelical Hermeneutics: Restatement, Advance or Retreat from the Reformation?" CTQ 
46 (1982) 167-80; idem, Toward an Exegetical Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1981) 
23-50, 131-40; W. S. LaSor, "The Sensus Plenior and Biblical Interpretation," in 
Scripture, Tradition, and Interpretation, ed. W. W. Gasque and W. S. LaSor (Grand 
Rapids: Eerdmans, 1978); V. Poythress, "Divine Meaning of Scripture," WTJ 48 (1986) 
241-79; idem, "Is Exegesis Possible? I. A Relational Perspective on Meaning," un- 
published article, Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, Penn.; and B. K. 
Waltke, "A Canonical Process Approach to the Psalms," in Tradition and Testament: 
Essays in Honor of Charles Lee Feinberg, ed. J. S. Feinberg and P. D. Feinberg 
(Chicago: Moody, 1981) 3-18. Perhaps the individual who is most outspoken against 
sensus plenior and in favor of the "single meaning" of a text is Kaiser. He connects 
meaning solely to the intent of the human author, following the hermeneutical theory 
of E. D. Hirsch as set forth in his The Aims of Interpretation (Chicago: University of 
Chicago, 1976); and Validity in Interpretation (New Haven: Yale University, 1967). 
Favoring a view that allows for the possibility of a divine meaning that may or may not 
have been a part of the human author's intention are LaSor, Poythress, and Waltke. 

2 For a general survey of opinion from a Roman Catholic perspective, cf. R. E. 
Brown, "The History and Development of the Theory of a Sensus Plenior," CBQ 15 
(1953) 141 62; idem, "The Sensus Plenior in the Last Ten Years," CBQ 25 (1963) 

3 My views have similarities to those of LaSor, "Sensus Plenior"; and B. S. Childs, 
Biblical Theology in Crisis (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1970). Also, I am indebted to 
the foundational work of Poythress, "Divine Meaning"; idem, "Relational Perspec- 
tive"; and Waltke, "Canonical Process Approach." 


the reading into a text of symbolic meaning that has no biblical basis. 
Further, it is not some sort of mystical or supernatural revelation 
acquired apart from the fruits of exegesis in which a previously 
hidden meaning is thrust into one's awareness, nor does the method 
consist of reading Scripture through a previously constructed grid of 
systematic theology or church tradition, and thus finding in the text 
only confirmation of what one already believes. Finally, this method 
is by no means to be separated from the grammatical-historical 
method and the human author's expressed meaning. Nor should its 
results be different from or contradict the results of grammatical- 
historical exegesis. Rather, the two should complement one another 
as two aspects of a single, unified process of interpretation. 

Sensus plenior, here defined, refers to the recognition of the 
canon of Scripture as a single and unified literary work. Because it is 
one book, no part of the book can be properly understood apart from 
the whole. Therefore, reflection on the whole of Scripture becomes a 
vital and central aspect in the hermeneutical process. And one's 
understanding of a passage will be deeper and clearer as the result of 
being seen in the light of the whole. This may include levels of 
meaning that were not part of the conscious intention of the human 
author, but which are included in the expressed meaning of the 
publicly accessible text and which are a part of the canonical context. 4 

Of course there is also diversity within the canon, and the differ- 
ences among biblical writings by different human authors must be 
recognized. At the same time, it must be recognized that these human 
differences are also divine differences. In other words, God uses a 
multiplicity of perspectives in his communication. The harmonization 
of texts does not serve well if it flattens out the divinely ordained 
diversity. But one does need to affirm that there are no contradictions 
in Scripture, and thus any differences are complementary perspec- 
tives, not mutually exclusive alternatives. Harmonization needs to be 
balanced by an appreciation of divinely ordained diversity. 5 

Thus a biblically based sensus plenior considers a given text in 
the light of the fulness of revelation. Any deeper meaning for a text 
comes only from other biblical texts. Using this definition one cannot 
be accused of looking to a source outside the canon for the meaning 
of texts, nor of reading into a text something that is not there. The 
meaning is there by virtue of the organic relationship of the parts of 

4 I am in basic agreement with R. E. Brown, cited in LaSor, "Sensus Plenior," 270. 
Cf. also Waltke, "Canonical Process Approach," 8-9; Poythress, "Relational Perspec- 
tive," 8; LaSor, "Sensus Plenior," 275; and Childs, Biblical Theology, 99-109. 

V. S. Poythress, The Stained-Glass Kaleidoscope: Using Perspectives in Theology 
(Grand Rapids: Zondervan, to appear) 41. 


Scripture to the whole of Scripture. Diversity in the canonical con- 
text, while it must retain its independent status as a legitimate biblico- 
theological point of view, also gives fuller and deeper meanings to 
texts that are conceptually related. 

From another perspective, sensus plenior also serves to narrow 
the meaning of certain texts. Partly in view here are portions of the 
Bible that were written early in the process of revelation. As sub- 
sequent revelation was given, the meaning of the earlier text became 
more and more evident. Likewise, the theological language for proper 
interpretation of the NT is to be found in the OT. One cannot 
properly interpret NT texts without taking into account the clarifying 
function of the OT canon. Hence, the viable options for the meaning 
of the text actually are reduced, not expanded. This function is the 
opposite of what most biblical scholars think in connection with the 
use of sensus plenior. Kaiser, for example, is opposed to any sugges- 
tion of "fuller" meaning for biblical texts. Moreover, he is opposed to 
methodological proposals that are of the same nature described herein. 
For example, in arguing against the canonical process approach of 
Waltke, he states: 

what is it that the whole or unity of Scripture teaches that cannot be 
found in the individual parts by the grammar and syntax? And if we 
must answer that a different sense is taught that went beyond the 
consciousness of the original instrumental agent who wrote that text, 
then we must argue that such is not an objective sensus plenior. In fact, 
we must deny that such a different sense is scriptural at all. 

He continues in the same vein, 

Does not this conclusion deprive the sensus plenior (which is a differ- 
ent, not the same sense) of one of its most essential elements — its 
scriptural status? Therefore, we easily dismiss it as having no force, 
authority, or as constituting no normative status over believers. 6 

On the basis of these remarks, it appears to be the case that 
Kaiser has misunderstood the proposal of Waltke. In point of fact, in 
the very article which Kaiser cites as the source of his information, 
Waltke declares unequivocally, 

in contrast to the normal sense of sensus plenior that God intended a 
fuller meaning in a text than that intended by the human author, the 

6 W. C. Kaiser, Jr., "A Response to 'Author's Intention and Biblical Interpre- 
tation'," in Hermeneutics, Inerrancy, and the Bible, ed. E. D. Radmacher and R. D. 
Preus (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984) 444-45. 


canonical process approach does not [italics mine] divorce the human 
authorial intention from the divine intention. 

If Kaiser did not misunderstand Waltke, then he is guilty of 
"term-shifting" with the idea of sensus plenior, which is defined 
differently by different scholars. Even though Waltke is careful to give 
his terms precise definitions, Kaiser shifts the discussion to his own 
definition of sensus plenior (which is based on current practices by 
scholars other than Waltke) and then proceeds to use it as an argu- 
ment against Waltke. In either case, such a cavalier dismissal of 
Waltke 's proposals is unwarranted. 

As an alternative Kaiser submits the notion of the "analogy of 
antecedent Scripture." He opines that the human author could not 
possibly have intended any meaning of which he was unaware and 
that this extends to connections of a text with other portions of 
Scripture. Thus, in the exegetical process, there may be no compari- 
son with any pericope that was written subsequent in time to the 
passage under consideration, for the author could not have intended 
a comparison with a passage of which he himself was unaware. 
Exegesis must be restricted to explicit affirmations found in the text 
being exegeted and to comparisons with parallel and equally explicit 
affirmations in pericopes that have preceded in time the passage 
under investigation. Comparison with the entire canon must be re- 
served for summarizing and/ or systematizing, but never for exegesis 
or as a hermeneutical method. 

7 Waltke, "Canonical Process Approach," 8. 

8 Kaiser, "Response," 444-45. 

9 Kaiser, Exegetical Theology, 134-40; idem, "Evangelical Hermeneutics," 176; and 
W. C. Kaiser, Jr., Toward an Old Testament Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 
1978) 16, 18-19, 190, 196, 219, 267. 

Kaiser, Exegetical Theology, 134-40; and idem, "Evangelical Hermeneutics," 
176. Cf. also D. A. Carson, "Unity and Diversity in the New Testament: The Pos- 
sibility of Systematic Theology," in Scripture and Truth, ed. D. A. Carson and J. D. 
Woodbridge (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1983) 65-95. Carson also argues that the 
process of comparison between passages should be used as a final consideration rather 
than as a determinative part of the exegetical process. I find it peculiar that Carson 
takes this view while at the same time arguing for the unity of Scripture in doing 
theology. One should be careful to maintain the distinction between systematic and 
biblical theology as Carson is doing in his article. Nevertheless, if the Bible is indeed a 
literary unity, then comparison of conceptually related texts as a part of the exegetical 
process is a valuable method when determining meaning. If conceptual relationships 
within the canon may not be used as a source of meaning for texts, then the proposed 
unity of Scripture is vacuous. This use of the canonical context does not preclude a 
biblical theology, nor does it blur the distinction between biblical and systematic 
theology. As mentioned above, diversity has value and must not be harmonized to the 
extent of forcing biblical authors to say something that (1) they never intended to say, 


Kaiser's concern that meaning be based on as objective a method 
as possible is certainly a legitimate one. And his proposals have many 
valuable insights. However, some features of Kaiser's approach need 
further refinement. His basic commitment to the principle of "ante- 
cedent Scripture" is one such feature. Although it is clear from his 
writings that Kaiser would never want man to be the autonomous 
authority over the text, his principle of antecedent Scripture does, in 
one respect, establish man's autonomy over the text. Man, rather 
than God, assumes the role of deciding to which areas of life the 
various canonical portions apply. Did not the divine author intend 
that each text become an integrated part of the canon (2 Tim 3:16)? 
Thus Kaiser, by excluding parts of the canon from the exegetical 
process for any given text, seems to establish man as the autonomous 
authority over the text. Man determines which Scriptures are in the 
"hermeneutical canon" and which are not. 

A second and related feature consists in the consequences of this 
approach for meaning in texts. Meaning lies in the relationships of 
the parts to the whole and to one another. Kaiser's method dimin- 
ishes the larger framework of the whole canon. A fragmented exegesis 
that focuses only on smaller units of communication, such as words 
and sentences, can diminish a reader's awareness of the flow of 
thought as it occurs in the larger network of discourse and canon- 
ical relationships, thus causing a less accurate reproduction of a 
text's expressed meaning. Therefore an approach to the meaning of 
texts which does not consider the entire canonical framework is 
inadequate. 12 

For the most part the sensus plenior debate has centered on 
methodology and the consequences of methodology for the normative 
significance of meaning. But there is another level that is crucial to 
the dialogue, and that is the level of preunderstanding. Specifically, 
the determining factors in many of the approaches to this issue 
involve more fundamental perspectives on how God has revealed 
himself in Scripture. At this level there are certain convictions that 

or (2) is not a legitimate meaning (expressed or implied) of the written text of the 
author. When conceptually related texts diverge in meaning, however, they may never 
be said to contradict one another (unless one abandons the evangelical inerrancy 
stance). Therefore, when comparing iwo such texts, one must not force the meaning of 
one text into the other. But the comparison of the two texts is still valuable as a part of 
the exegetical process in that it reveals what the text cannot mean. The meaning of the 
text cannot contradict the meaning of any conceptually related text that has a different 
perspective. Hence, the clarifying function of the canon is still valuable even when 
diversity is evident. 

For a discussion of this phenomenon at the level of discourse, cf. Poythress, 
"Relational Perspective," especially 8ff. 
12 Ibid. 


form the foundation of the present proposal for the use of sensus 
plenior in hermeneutics. Some of them have been briefly alluded to 
already. I turn now to a more detailed discussion of these founda- 
tional convictions. 


When approaching a biblical text, it is impossible to separate 
oneself completely from all influences of culture and conditioning. 
Therefore, complete objectivity in the hermeneutical process is not a 
realistic expectation. One is never free from one's experience, ques- 
tions, attitudes, values, judgments, and the like, which combine to 
influence one's perception. 13 The goal, then, is not neutrality but self- 
awareness. The interpreter must limit and refine his preunderstanding, 
but he cannot leave himself behind when he dons the cloak of an 
exegete. With this in mind, the following convictions are proposed as 
a foundation for the use of sensus plenior . 14 

(1) God is the author of Scripture and he himself is the ultimate 
epistemological context for understanding the meaning of Scripture. 
The biblical witnesses clearly assert that God is the author of the 
Bible (Heb 1:1, 2; 2 Tim 3:16). This does not mean that the role of the 
human author is to be ignored, but simply that the meaning of 
Scripture is grounded in divine authorship. Furthermore, in order to 
understand Scripture one must first know the divine author (1 Cor 
2:10-16). Thus to know God is to be in a position to understand 

Inspiration, though, does not remove the text from its historical 
context. Nor does it eliminate our responsibility to conduct scientific 
exegesis, for there can be no separation of human and divine mean- 
ing. God chose to speak through human vessels and any "fuller" 
meaning of a text must also account for the human level of meaning. 15 

(2) Only the Bible in its canonical form is the normative and 
authoritative source of theological data. With the composition of the 

R. Bultmann, "Is Exegesis Without Presuppositions Possible?" in Existence and 
Faith, ed. and trans. S. M. Ogden (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1961) 342-51; 
A. C. Thiselton, "The New Hermeneutic," in New Testament Interpretation: Essays on 
Principles and Methods, ed. I. H. Marshall (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1977) 313-16, 

14 Some of these convictions I share with Waltke, "Canonical Process Approach," 
and have expanded upon the shape he gave them in his article, 9-10. Cf. also B. K. 
Waltke, "Historical Grammatical Problems," in Hermeneutics, Inerrancy, and the 
Bible, ed. E. D. Radmacher and R. D. Preus (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984) 

For a detailed analysis of the interplay between divine and human authorship 
and its implications for the meaning of Scripture, cf. Poythress, "Divine Meaning." 


final NT book the canon as a literary corpus was closed. These 
received Scriptures constitute the final literary framework for inter- 
pretation. Moreover, the meaning of the canon, as complex and 
expansive as it may be, was also closed when the final book was 
written. Although mortal man may never capture every nuance of 
meaning in Scripture, the possible meanings must be finite because 
the literary corpus is limited to sixty-six books. No assertion of tradi- 
tion, modern criticism (e.g., the claims made by some that authority 
resides in an earlier stage of tradition-history), or new revelation can 
lay claim to normativity. 

(3) The nature of progressive revelation is such that the meaning 
of the Scriptures became deeper and clearer as the literary corpus of 
the canon increased. Earlier portions of the canon were understood 
more clearly in the light of Jesus Christ and the expanding canon. 
Try to imagine interpreting the OT without the light of the NT. The 
conclusions would be quite different from those reached with the NT 
in view. 17 Likewise, the reverse of this process is true. For an inter- 
pretation of a NT text to be as clear as possible it too must be read 
within the framework of progressive revelation and the whole of 
Scripture. Indeed, without the information from the OT, significant 
portions of the NT would be incomprehensible (e.g., Hebrews). Pro- 
gressive revelation and the formation of the canon contribute to the 
perspective that the Bible is a single literary work produced ultimately 
by a single divine author. Thus, the Bible as an integrated whole is 
more meaningful than its discrete parts. 

(4) The canon has an organic unity that is demonstrated in its 
harmony of doctrine, perspective, and faith. Included in the harmony 
of perspective within the canon is a common linguistic context involv- 
ing words, sentences, paragraphs, books, and the totality of a literary 
collection. 18 It is this unity of Scripture that makes possible the task 
of systematic theology. And because of its unity, the canon provides a 
control over the possibility of whimsical interpretations staking a 

B. S. Childs has much to say in this regard in his Introduction to the Old 
Testament as Scripture (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1979). Dunn, "Levels," 18-27, posits 
four levels of canonical authority: tradition-history (earlier stages of composition), final 
composition (the final literary form of each book), canonical (the larger group of final 
compositions), and ecclesiastical (dogmatics). He argues that authority resides in the 
final composition of each book, not in the canonical collection of the books as a whole. 
His reason for taking this position is to account for the abundance of diversity which 
he claims is present in the canon. In effect, his position is that the Bible does not 
present a unified theology, but a group of widely divergent theologies. Cf. also J. D. G. 
Dunn, Unity and Diversity in the New Testament (London: S.C.M., 1977). For a 
representative and clearly articulated argument against the authoritative use of the 
canon in biblical theology, cf. J. Barr, Holy Scripture (Philadelphia: Westminster, 
1983) esp. 63ff. 

I7 Waltke, "Problems," 122. 

l8 Ibid. 


claim to canonical authority. The guarantee that Scripture is con- 
sistent and trustworthy is founded upon the consistent nature of God 
himself, the self-witness of the Bible, Christ's use of Scripture, and 
the divine content of Scripture. Therefore the canon is the legitimate 
source of data for systematic theology, and indeed is the very basis 
that makes possible the elaboration of the relationships between the 
whole and the parts. 19 And it is precisely at this level that a normative 
use of sensus plenior functions in articulating an evangelical theology. 

Diversity in the canon, however, must be acknowledged. The 
question is, diversity of what nature and to what extent? Dunn has 
argued that the extensive diversities within the canon make the mean- 
ing of a text less clear than when the text is understood as a self- 
contained composition. Unity arises only as the result of imposing a 
theological grid on the canon and reading in one's presuppositions. 
Dunn concludes that the Bible does not contain a unified theology, 
but rather that it contains diverse theologies that cannot be har- 
monized. 20 Thus he would consider systematic theology to be impos- 
sible. The problem confronting Dunn is deciding which theology 
should be considered to be authoritative when two or more biblical 
writers diverge. I disagree, however, with Dunn's assessment of the 
nature of the diversity. The diversity in Scripture stems from com- 
plementary modes of expressing the same truth. For example, do 
Paul and James really contradict one another with respect to the 
doctrine of justification? Or are they expressing the same truth but 
from perspectives suited to their own purposes? While neither author's 
meaning should be forced upon the other, since the diversity is 
divinely ordained and should be respected, neither do they contradict 
one another. The diversity is complementary. This explanation ac- 
counts for the data sufficiently and does not preclude the possibility 
of a unified biblical theology. For indeed the unity of Scripture is of 
paramount importance as the evangelical community moves forward 
in articulating a normative theology for the people of God. 

The convictions set forth above form the foundation for the use 
of sensus plenior in evangelical hermeneutics. But what is its role in 
the actual hermeneutical process? How does it cultivate a deeper and 
clearer understanding of texts? 


Any discussion of sensus plenior as it functions in the hermeneu- 
tical process must begin with the relationship between meaning and 

"Carson, "Unity and Diversity," 69-79. He presents a more detailed discussion of 
this perspective on the unity of Scripture with which I agree, but which goes beyond 
the scope of the present investigation. 

" Dunn, "Levels," 37-38, 42. Cf. also Dunn, Unity and Diversity. 


authorial intent. Much of the debate surrounding the idea of a text's 
deeper meaning has focused on this relationship. Even when sensus 
plenior is defined as the conceptual relationships between a text and 
the canonical context — thus retaining a fully biblical perspective and 
authority — there are those who oppose it. Generally the opposition is 
based on a perceived separation between divine meaning and human 
intent. But it is clear from Scripture that the final composition of 
each book contains both divine meaning and human meaning (e.g., 
Heb 1:1-2; 2:3-4; Acts 4:25; Jer 10:1-10). Thus there can be no 
separation between the deeper meaning of a passage and authorial 

One approach to the problem of meaning and authorial intent 
that has received much attention is that of Hirsch/ His concern that 
interpretation not become just an exercise in subjectivity is a valid 
one. Certainly there is a "correct" meaning to be striven for which is 
reproducible. This meaning Hirsch identifies as the author's intent. 
Whatever meaning the author intended to convey is precisely what he 
did convey. Furthermore, meaning in the text is fixed and unchang- 
ing, and is represented by the text's vocabulary, grammar, and other 
related areas. Meaning at this level includes what is expressed indi- 
rectly and what can be legitimately inferred from the text. Legitimate 
inferences are said to be a part of the author's intent. 23 

All of this seems sensible enough. And when applied to biblical 
interpretation there should be no hesitation in affirming that what the 
human author intended to say is also part of God's meaning. But it is 
another matter to ask whether the full meaning of the text is restricted 
to human intent. Is it possible that God intended what the human 
author expressed as well as something more? In particular, God has 
known from the beginning his entire plan for redemptive history. 
Moreover, God has always known the final shape of the canon. Thus, 
God had his entire redemptive plan as well as the entire Bible in view 
as he inspired each writer to record his portion of revelation. Certain 
relationships of the parts of Scripture to the whole and to one 
another were elements of God's intention, but not necessarily part of 
the human author's intention. Indeed, it is largely beside the point to 
be concerned with human authorial intention when considering these 

Poythress, "Divine Meaning," provides an extended discussion of the implica- 
tions of dual authorship. The separation of divine meaning from human meaning is 
one of Kaiser's major concerns in opposing sensus plenior; see his "Evangelical Her- 
meneutics," and Exegetical Theology, esp. 105-46. 

"Hirsch, Validity; see also Aims. 

23 Hirsch, Validity, 5 1 ff. , 217-24. In order to account for implications which may 
or may not have been in the author's consciousness at the time of writing, Hirsch 
introduces the notion of "unconscious intention." Thus logical inferences can be said to 
partake of intentionality, albeit at the unconscious level. 


kinds of connections, unless one is willing to suggest that God made 
each writer aware of his entire redemptive plan and of the totality of 
biblical revelation while he was writing! Rather, at the level of canoni- 
cal relationships it is divine authorial intention and the expressed 
meaning of texts that is of concern. Yet one can still affirm the unity 
of intent and meaning between God and the human writer. The divine 
is inclusive of the human but transcends it. 

Does this mean that a text has "multiple" meanings? The termi- 
nology itself involved in speaking of "multiple" meanings can be 
confusing. It could imply a view of meaning that separates the divine 
from the human or that postulates unrelated meanings from the same 
text. This is not a proper use of sensus plenior. Hence, the "single" 
meaning of a text is an important distinction for evangelicals to 
maintain, and here there should be basic agreement with Kaiser's 
concern for the relationship between the "single" meaning of a text 
and biblical authority. 25 But the idea of "single meaning" needs further 

Contending that each text has but a single meaning does not imply 
that meaning is a narrow, one-dimensional phenomenon. The mean- 
ings of texts are not set in concrete. The relationships of texts within 
the frame of the canon create deeper and clearer meanings than can 
be seen with a narrow "scientific" approach to exegesis. Therefore, 
while maintaining the view that meaning in texts does have param- 
eters beyond which the exegete cannot go, it is also necessary to 
postulate that meaning in texts is multi-dimensional. The "single 
rrieafting" in a text refers to its unity of meaning, with all of its 
dimensions being connected to the results of grammatical-historical 
exegesis. The meaning of a text is that which is expressed by the 
discourse. Where a deeper meaning emerges as the result of reflection 
on either the relationships of a text to other texts or on the integra- 
tion of texts into the canonical structure, it is the multi-dimensional 
nature of meaning that is coming to the fore. Even further reflection 

Kaiser, "Evangelical Hermeneiitics," 168-76, argues for the "single" (univocal) 
meaning of texts, basing his argument on the premise that God would not say anything 
in a passage that was not part of the human author's conscious intent. Anything else is 
application, not meaning. The level of awareness on the part of the human author 
seems to be very important for Kaiser as he attempts to defend his view that God said 
only what the human author said, and nothing more. In a recent work (The Uses of the 
Old Testament in the New [Chicago: Moody, 1985] 70-71), he attributes a high level of 
awareness to the prophets in defense of his view that human intent is the only 
legitimate criterion for meaning. He states, "It is as if the prophet, on receiving the 
divine oracle, looked out over the future horizon and was divinely enabled propheti- 
cally to see both one or more near results as well as a distinctive, but more distant 
climactic fulfillment, with both the near and distant results of that word so generically 
linked that the words possessed one meaning in a collective whole." 

25 Kaiser, "Evangelical Hermeneutics," 176; Exegetical Theology, 23ff. 


within the gestalt of the canon might result in the recognition of 
numerous dimensions connected to the grammatical-historical con- 
clusion. The dynamics of the process are similar to those involved in 
viewing a master painting. If the painting were viewed from the 
perspective of its component parts (e.g., brush strokes, figures, and 
shades of colors), it would not have the same impact as it does when 
viewed as a whole. When viewed in its entirety, the integration of the 
colors, figures, and brush strokes constitute a structure with proper- 
ties not derivable from its parts. Each component of the painting 
takes on even more meaning when viewed in the light of the entire 
structure. Yet each of the three components also has intrinsic value: 
brush strokes reveal the artist's level of competency with brush tech- 
niques, figures reveal his ability to express dimensions and spatial 
relationships, and colors express his penchant for selecting aestheti- 
cally pleasing or provocative combinations of hues. A single brush 
stroke thus has multiple dimensions, none of which is separable from 
the single brush stroke. The same phenomenon of understanding 
occurs when biblical discourses are integrated into the larger canoni- 
cal context. 26 

Num 1 1:29, in which Moses expresses his wish that all the Lord's 
people were prophets and that the Lord would put his Spirit upon 
them, will serve as an example of integrating a text into the canonical 
context. This expressed desire by Moses might evoke questions with 
respect to how God would proceed in bringing about the fulfillment 
of his wish. Or one might ask whether God would ever want all his 
people to prophesy. And if God were ever to pour out his Spirit on 
all the people of the covenant, what precisely would happen? When 
this verse is read in combination with Joel 2:28-32, we see that the 
prophet predicts and describes a fulfillment of Moses' wish. Then the 
Day of Pentecost presents a deeper and clearer picture of how the 
realization of Moses' wish might be accomplished. We see more 
precisely how God could proceed to fulfill the prophecy given to Joel. 
More details become available with regard to the effects of the out- 
pouring among God's people. God did indeed make the gift of proph- 
ecy potentially a gift for all his people. These, then, become strata of 
the grammatical-historical meaning in Num 11:29 as that meaning 
was expanded in Joel and then in Acts. The added dimensions of 
meaning are in the text by virtue of the canonical context and the 
nature of progressive revelation. An important observation should be 
made at this point with respect to the clarifying function of the 

26 This illustration had its origins in the course entitled "Hermeneutical Founda- 
tions," conducted during the spring semester, 1986, at Westminster Theological 
Seminary, under the instruction of Vern S. Poythress. 


canon. In this example the canonical context has actually functioned 
to make our understanding of the text more precise. It has eliminated 
some meanings and focused attention more exactly on others. 

But are these canonical meanings all from the later texts while 
the earlier text retains its vagueness? The answer to this question 
must be based on one's perspective of the unity and relatedness of the 
canon. If one assumes that the various portions of the canon are not 
related, then of course the answer will be in the affirmative. Con- 
versely, if one argues as I have, that the canon is a unified field, then 
the answer will be in the negative. Moreover, the methods of the NT 
writers are an important consideration in this matter. They did not 
hesitate to make these kinds of canonical connections, even to the 
point of combining related texts in extended citations of Scripture 
(e.g., 1 Pet 2:4-8). For the NT authors, the person of Jesus Christ 
was the final revelation that clarified all previous revelation. 

When viewed in this way, it does not seem that a fine distinction 
is necessary between what the human author expressed in the histori- 
cal situation and what God may mean in the light of later revelation. 
There is no "added" knowledge, only strata of knowledge already 
present in the canon. Thus one can affirm both the historical meaning 
and the sensus plenior without reading into the author's expressed 
meaning something that is distinct from it. The expressed meaning of 
the text can include both. If one distinguishes at this point between 
the historical meaning of the text and that which is apparent in the 
light of later revelation, it creates problems for our understanding of 
certain OT promises. Specifically, if the historical meaning that is "in" 
certain promises is retained in a form distinct from the meaning those 
promises have when considered in the light of later revelation, then 
some of God's promises were never fulfilled. For example, consider 
the promises made to David on behalf of the nation of Israel for a 
Davidic dynasty that would be "made sure forever" (2 Sam 7:116- 
16), and for a permanent and peaceful earthly dwelling place for the 
nation (2 Sam 7:8-1 la). In this author's view, these promises were 
never fulfilled in a "literal" sense. But the sensus plenior in this 
example, which is made plain in the light of Christ, can certainly be 
said to reside "in" the expressed meaning of the discourse. Any claim 
of normativeness for the "literal" meaning creates grave problems for 
our understanding of God's promises. He must have meant all along 
that these promises would be fulfilled in Christ, and therefore the 
meaning based on the canonical context must be "in" the text. 

But the "literal" meaning of these promises also retained a cer- 
tain vagueness until the time of fulfillment in Christ. If one reads only 
2 Samuel and writings antecedent to it, the details of exactly how 
God would accomplish his purpose with respect to those promises 


remain unknown. Only when the entire canon is read and all the 
elements of the progress of revelation are taken into account is 
the full, and one could say "literal," import of the divine author's 
expressed meaning realized. The phenomenon is similar to that which 
occurs when reading a novel. Not until the end of the book does one 
fully understand all the strands and details of the plot. And then 
upon a second reading of the novel certain details that were vague 
during the first reading become clear. The important thing is the 
expressed meaning of the author, which in terms of Scripture always 
must be determined in the light of the canonical strata of divine 

It is yet another matter to ask whether the strata of meaning 
found through the use of sensus plenior are normative. Inasmuch as 
they are based on relationships between texts within the canonical 
context, and thus must be accepted as biblical, the answer is yes. But 
care should be taken to ensure that the connections one makes in this 
manner are legitimate. Conceptually unrelated texts should not be 
forced upon one another. The explicit conceptual relatedness of texts 
can only be determined after the texts have been exegeted and the 
results compared to ensure that they are addressing the same concept. 
Furthermore, when there are no direct conceptual parallels between 
two texts, but there are connections at the implicational level, one 
must be very circumspect in claiming normative theological value. 
Measuring implicit connections is more difficult than measuring the 
explicit results of grammatical-historical exegesis in which exegesis 
is the controlling method. When determining implicit connections, 
however, the results of exegesis are not to be disregarded. Indeed, 
deduced implications should be made on the basis of exegetically 
determined meanings of texts. It is only when texts share these 
exegetical implications, that relatedness at the implicational level 
should be pursued. Admittedly, some implicit connections are ten- 
uous, and the perceived connections are subjective. These kinds of 
implicational connections should not be used in the exegetical process 
or in doing theology, for the controls are not sufficiently objective. 
The explicit connections based on grammatical-historical exegesis, 
however, do have a legitimate function, since the grammatical- 
historical method provides an objective control when comparing the 
relatedness of texts. Again, caution must be exercised when using the 
sensus plenior method, for in its use there is potential for eisegesis 
and other exegetical abuses. And while all methods have potential for 
abuse, sensus plenior may be more readily abused than some others. 

The use of the OT in the NT is another area that impacts the use 
of this method. It would be beyond the scope of this paper to attempt 
any detailed discussion of so complex an issue. However, some gen- 


eral observations are in order. Foremost in the relationship between 
the testaments is the fact of the incarnation. The OT in every respect 
looks forward to Christ. In Christ the entire OT covenant finds its 
fulfillment and perfection resulting in the promised new covenant 
(Heb 8:1-13; 11:39-40; 1 Cor 11:23-26). Therefore, it is necessary for 
the church to read the OT in the light of Christ. In addition, because 
the NT is the record of Christ's person and work, it is necessary also 
that the OT be read in light of the NT. The progress of revelation, as 
seen earlier, is another determining factor in NT priority. 

But there is another level of communication in the NT which 
indicates that the church should read the OT in the light of Christ: 
the attitudes of the NT writers toward the OT. The NT writers did 
not hesitate to interpret OT texts in the light of their own context and 
the revelation of Jesus Christ. The precision of their exegesis is not 
the issue here, for they were guided by inspiration and wrote from a 
revelatory stance. The point of focus is rather upon their general 
perspective which may serve as a paradigm for the perspective of the 
church. That is, the NT provides a broad perspective on the canon 
which in some respects was not exclusively the perspective of the 
inspired writers. Some aspects of this NT perspective, such as reading 
the OT in the light of Christ, have value for exegesis today. However, 
this approach to the OT should not be undertaken apart from a 
careful exegesis of the OT text on its own merits. It is simply that the 
OT does not reflect its fullest meaning apart from the NT perspective 
of fulfillment. The later portions of the canonical context, then, are of 
critical importance for any study of the OT. 

In like manner the NT must be read in the light of the canonical 
context. The NT writers saw a great deal of continuity between 
themselves, as participants in the covenant, and the OT participants 
in the covenant. Much of the theology of the NT is thoroughly 
grounded in the previous revelation of the OT. Consequently, the 
relationship can be boiled down to one of basic continuity between 
the testaments. This canonical relationship has profound implications 
for the univocal approach of Kaiser. 

Another important aspect of the relationship between the testa- 
ments that provides enriched understanding of texts is to be found in 
the area of typology. 27 Typology should not be confused with alle- 
gorization which involves miniscule correspondences that are histori- 
cally and biblically unrelated. Also, allegorization attempts to derive 

27 For a more extensive analysis see the following works which are devoted to the 
typological understanding of the Bible: D. L. Baker, Two Testaments: One Bible 
(Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1976); P. J. Cahill, "Hermeneutical Implications of 
Typology," CBQ 44 (1982) 266-81; and L. Goppelt, Typos, trans. D. H. Madvig 
(Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1982). 


deeper meaning from a single text, rather than suggesting corre- 
spondences between historical events and persons which become evi- 
dent against the backdrop of God's actions in history. Conversely, 
typology is grounded in a biblical record that presents God's activity 
on behalf of his people as a continuous and uniform pattern. 

Typological phenomena reflect the continuity between the testa- 
ments and the integration of each component into a single literary 
work, written by God. But this feature of the canon is not restricted 
to the area of progressive revelation in which later writings (e.g., the 
NT corpus) reflect a typological understanding of earlier documents 
(e.g., the OT corpus). So pervasive is the typological structure of the 
canon that even the OT's understanding of itself is typological. In the 
OT itself certain historical phenomena and persons were understood 
to have both vertical and horizontal correspondences with divine 
ideals." 8 Hence the garden of Eden was perceived as a type of the 
heavenly paradise which was to come (Isa 9:1, 2; 11:6-9); the exodus 
looked forward to a future second exodus (Isa 43:16-21; 48:20-21); 
the wilderness experience typified yet another wilderness wandering 
(Hos 2:16, 17; 12:9, 10); and the prophets saw David as the type of a 
future king (Isa 11:1; 55:3, 4; Jer 23:5; Ezek 34:23-24; Amos 9:1 1). 

The NT typological understanding of the OT also provides a 
clear picture of the integrative nature of the parts of Scripture. It 
reflects an unflagging effort by the NT authors to make relevant the 
traditions they possessed. For they saw the consistent and typical acts 
of God in history as their own history of promise which was now 
being fulfilled. The "symbols" of history were now becoming reality. 
Thus the NT has sweeping typological perspectives of the two Adams 
(Rom 5:12-21; 1 Corinthians 15), the nation of Israel (Gal 3:1-19; 
6:15-16; Heb 2:16; 1 Pet 2:9 10), and Jerusalem (Gal 4:25-26; Heb 
12:22; Rev 3:12; 21:2, 10). And this exemplary list is by no means 
exhaustive! The entire book of Hebrews is pervaded with a compre- 
hensive typological view of redemptive fulfillment in Christ. 

Furthermore, this NT typological perspective has certain char- 
acteristics that establish it as a legitimate biblical view. Most impor- 
tantly, biblical typology has a christocentric focus. All former modes 
of salvation find their fulfillment and climax in the ultimate type: 
Christ. Additionally, the antitype intensifies and enhances the previ- 
ous understanding of the type. That is to say, the type takes on a 
deeper and clearer meaning in the light of the antitype. And, as stated 
previously, there is a definite sense of historical continuity between 
the type and its antitype. In general, the OT is of a preliminary nature 
whereas the NT records the fulfillment. 29 

8 Cahill, "Typology," 274; Baker, One Bible, 243-50. 
'Goppelt, Typos, 198-205; Cahill, "Typology," 270-73. 


The experience of Christ so transformed the understanding of 
the NT authors that they were confronted with the need to reinterpret 
their theology in the light of him. So then, typology is one method of 
interpretation that brought a deeper and clearer understanding (a 
sensus plenior) of the OT Scriptures to the people of God. And it is 
grounded in more than just the historical continuity between type and 
antitype. It is grounded in the very perspective and understanding of 
the inspired writers and in the literature they produced. Now the 
question arises as to whether this continues to be a legitimate her- 
meneutical approach. If its foundation is in the canonical context the 
answer must be in the affirmative. Moreover, should the church reject 
a perspective on the OT, and indeed on all of Scripture, that was held 
by the biblical writers? Caution is again in order, however, for typo- 
logical correspondences that are not explicitly identified as such by a 
biblical writer can be tenuous. Even though theology based on this 
kind of deeper understanding is generally normative, without a care- 
fully considered approach to the canonical context it may become so 
tenuous as to move outside the parameters of the canon and thus lose 
its normative significance. The canonical context is the criterion for 
determining the validity of this aspect of sensus plenior. If, after a 
grammatical-historical exegesis is carried out on the related peri- 
copes, a typological correspondence is determined to exist within the 
canon, then its significance should be recognized as canonical. How- 
ever, the modern exegete is not free to move outside the canon and 
claim normative significance for correspondences between biblical 
events and modern events, for this assumes a revelatory stance. 

More needs to be said, though, about the controls over the 
misuse of sensus plenior than just an appeal to the canonical context, 
although that is very important and actually sums up what now needs 
to be considered in more detail. In the process of setting forth some 
guidelines it may be profitable also to look at certain aspects of the 
grammatical-historical method that are related to the use of sensus 

Obviously, the results of any interpretation may not contradict 
the clear teaching of Scripture. Therefore, in controlling the use of 
sensus plenior it is of primary importance to subject its results to the 
analogy of faith. The analogy of faith is quite useful as long as all 
portions of Scripture are given equal status in the procedure. That is, 
one group of "proof-texts" should not be set up as the framework 
through which all other texts are read. When this occurs, inevitably 
the theology of the proof-texts is read into the other texts, thus 
beclouding legitimate, divinely ordained diversities. For example, the 
book of James must not be forced through a Pauline grid. James 
gave a perspective that deserves to be heard on its own merit. The 
exception to this rule would be texts with "obscure" meanings. Also, 


at this point in the hermeneutical process it would be healthy to 
receive feedback from systematic theology, although this too must 
not become a matter of forcing Scripture into a preunderstood grid. 
Nevertheless, as long as it remains subject to the results of exegesis, it 
is healthy for systematic theology to inform exegesis. 

Since absolute objectivity is impossible to achieve, the exegete 
should strive for self-awareness and continually engage in self-critical 
reflection. When combined with this kind of hermeneutical introspec- 
tion, the grammatical-historical method serves also as a control over 
the abuse of sensus plenior. Notwithstanding one's theological pre- 
suppositions, this type of exegesis generates fruitful and accurate 
results. It is essential for understanding what the author expressed. 
And the deeper meaning of a text may never contradict the results of 
a careful exegesis of that text. Nor may it be unrelated to the results 
of exegesis. Of ultimate concern for evangelicals must be the fixity of 
meaning in the text. The meaning of a text must not be viewed as 
autonomous, an atemporal object loosed from its historical condi- 
tioning and no longer under the control of authorial expression. 
Grammatical-historical exegesis is a key weapon in this battle against 
the advances of modernity with its relativistic approach to biblical 
norms. But fixity of meaning does not preclude a deeper and clearer 
meaning, so long as every stratum is viewed as a part of the fixed 
meaning of the text. For ultimately it was God who determined the 
fixity of meaning by causing the canon to be written, thereby setting 
the boundaries for the meanings of texts. 

However, this endorsement of the grammatical-historical method 
is not without qualifications. "Scientific" exegesis must not be made 
into some sort of sacred cow, grazing on the lush grasses of objec- 
tivity while eschewing the barren pastures of subjectivity. Some ad- 
vocates of the grammatical-historical method seem to understand 
hermeneutics as the mastery of certain principles that are then used to 
extract the meaning from a text as though it were an object to be 
uncovered in an archaeological dig. If presuppositions are properly 
refined, then the correct, one-dimensional meaning of the text will be 
revealed by means of the objective methodology. This approach is not 
fully satisfactory in several respects. 

First of all, the "scientific" grammatical-historical method is 
itself shaped by the community from which it arises. 30 Consequently, 
the results of the method will be slanted toward a western mind-set. 
Moreover, the theology based on such an analysis will be articulated 
within the epistemological categories of western civilization's ratio- 

P. L. Berger and T. Luckmann, The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise 
in the Sociology of Knowledge (Garden City: Doubleday, 1966). Berger and Luckmann 
show that all epistemological categories are ultimately founded in the societal values 
from which they arise. 


nalistic and empirical world view. Such a scientific orientation makes 
it difficult for some scholars to accept the supernatural world view of 
the Bible. Others of a more evangelical orientation accept the world 
view of the Bible with respect to past ages (e.g., the apostolic age), 
but find it difficult to accept the idea of those same supernatural 
phenomena continuing into the present age. Perhaps certain ratio- 
nalistic presuppositions concerning the nature of reality actually pre- 
vent some from accepting the supernatural perspective of Scripture. 
An approach such as this actually widens the gulf between the two 

Second, the illusion of absolute objectivity can prevent one from 
apprehending all the layers of meaning that might be in a text. 
Therefore, the canon's function as context should be made an integral 
aspect of the hermeneutical process and should work hand in hand 
with grammatical-historical investigation. It should not be relegated 
to a separate and final stage of systematizing, a stage that is basically 
unrelated to the process of interpreting the text. Furthermore, sys- 
tematic theology is determined to a great extent by hermeneutical 
methods, so why should the two be separated? A narrow use of the 
grammatical-historical method, then, does not adequately account for 
the canonical "iceberg." 

Third, a narrow and fragmentizing exegesis can have the opposite 
result and reach conclusions that are too vague. Apart from the 
canonical context one may miss pertinent information that would 
have the effect of making a text clear. Thus, while the canonical 
context may actually reduce the viable options for interpretation and 
give us greater clarity, the grammatical-historical method may result 
in vagueness. 

Fourth, the emphasis of much exegesis is still upon smaller units 
of communication such as words and sentences. Even when this 
level of exegesis is conducted in a balanced manner, the underlying 
assumption seems to be that theology is contained in the meanings of 
words and precise syntactical relationships. Thus the results tend to 
be atomistic and perhaps not that relevant to the larger conceptual 
framework. In this respect the Bible should be read "like any other 
book." When we read other works of literature, when we write, even 
when we speak, do we conduct a lexicographical investigation of 
every word being used? Of course not. Our awareness is focused on 
larger kinds of meaning. Our interpretations should also have this 
focus. 31 

Finally, an overly scientific methodology may cause one to miss 
the primary goal of hermeneutics, namely, a personal encounter with 
the risen Lord. The ultimate objective is not to know the meanings of 

31 Cf. Poythress, "Relational Perspective." 


texts, or even the deeper meanings of texts. The ultimate objective in 
hermeneutics is to know Christ. This does not mean that the scholarly 
discipline of academic investigation must be thrown out. But that 
part of the process must not obscure the spiritual dimension. The 
Scriptures do more than communicate propositional truth; they 
mediate the presence and power of God to redeem man. In this 
respect, the Bible interprets us, and it is carnal to think that we are 
somehow "masters" of its meaning. 

For the Bible to interpret our lives it must have some effect on 
us. When we have an encounter with the risen Lord it usually evokes 
a response on our part. And it is difficult to separate precisely our 
responses from the meaning of the text since one flows directly from 
the other. Since any effect that meaning has can generally be called 
application, I proceed now to consider that topic. 


In the final analysis, the problem of Scripture's authority within 
the evangelical community is not one of articulating a doctrine of the 
Word of God to which all will subscribe. The real problem, it seems, 
is to articulate the meaning of the Bible as relevant to modern culture 
in a way that retains full divine authority. This is the task not only of 
theology in a systematic sense, but also in a pastoral sense. Any 
theology that lacks application is fruitless. How, then, may the sensus 
plenior of Scripture yield fruitful results in the area of application? 

Evangelicals must reject the concept that the needs of modern 
man determine the meaning of the text and thus also its application. 32 
At the same time it must be acknowledged that we are "trapped" 
within our historical situation and there is no escape. So in one 
sense, sharing in the meaning of a text by way of application cannot 
avoid historical conditioning. Yet in the fusion of the biblical and 
modern "horizons," it is the modern horizon that must be subject to 
refinement, not the horizon of the text. Authority resides in the text, 
not with the interpreter. 

Hirsch, whose view of meaning and intention was considered in 
the preceding section, has also offered a solution to the problem of 
application/ 3 He suggests a strict separation of meaning and "signi- 
ficance." Meaning in his theory, as seen earlier, is what the author 
intended to express. "Significance" is a perception by the reader of a 
relationship between the meaning of a text and his own situation. 
Application, then, consists of these perceived relationships. An obvi- 
ous weakness with this view is that a reader may perceive a relation- 

32 See Thiselton, "New Hermeneutic," 303-10. 
"Hirsch, Aims, 95-158. Cf. also his Validity. 


ship between meaning and his own circumstance which is not at all 
related to the text. 34 Some scholars, such as Kaiser, have appropriated 
the Hirschian theory of application into the hermeneutical process. 35 
He contends that the two processes of exegesis and application must 
be kept separate and distinct. If application is a part of the meaning, 
then the meaning of a text changes with each new application. Thus, 
in order to protect the stability and authority of a text's meaning, he 
argues for separation. However, even though application is a dis- 
tinct and separate item from the meaning of the text, Kaiser opines 
that good applications will be in harmony with the universal truth 
expressed by the passage. 

On the surface this appears to be a logical and practical way of 
dealing with application. But there are problems with it. God gave 
Scripture for the very purpose of application through encountering 
Jesus Christ in the words of the biblical witness. Scripture evokes 
awareness of "how great a salvation" believers possess by virtue of its 
witness to Christ (Heb 2:3-4). The holy Scriptures also make men 
"wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus" (2 Tim 3:15). These 
are applicational characteristics of the very nature of God's Word. 
Since application is part of the ontological essence of Scripture, it is 
problematic to entertain any degree of separation between the two. It 
would be like trying to separate the attributes of God from the being 
of God. Application is an attribute of Scripture. 

Furthermore, the separation of meaning and application results 
in the loss of normativeness for the message of the Bible. If applica- 
tion is not fully a part of meaning then it is not binding on one's life. 
Clearly, Kaiser does not wish to have application separated entirely 
from the text, for he contends that application should be in harmony 
with the universal meaning of the passage. His burden is to protect 
against a hermeneutical posture in which meaning does not reside in 
the text but only in the interpreter's application of the text. If mean- 
ing is said to reside only with the interpreter and his perceived 
relationships between the text and his own historical milieu, then it 
becomes detached from the intent of both the human and divine 
author. Poythress has argued correctly that this kind of strict separa- 
tion is tantamount to agreeing with the view of neo-orthodoxy, which 
also holds to a dichotomy between the propositional content of a 
text and one's personal encounter (application) with the text. 36 But 
Kaiser's suggestion that application should be kept separate from 

34 Poythress, "Divine Meaning," 4. 

35 W. C. Kaiser, "Inner Biblical Exegesis as a Model for Bridging the 'Then' and 
'Now' Gap: Hosea 12:1-6," JETS 28 (1985) 33-46. Cf. also Kaiser, Exegetical The- 
ology, 32. 

36 Poythress, "Divine Meaning," 17-18. 


meaning may lead some to understand his position as advocating a 
more radical kind of separation in which application is not meaning. 
The danger with which he is concerned can be eliminated when one 
first engages in the exegetical task and then takes care to ensure that 
all applications are drawn from the meaning of the text. The meaning 
of Scripture can be appropriated normatively in the present historical 
context only if application is the warp and woof of the meaning. At 
this point one can be confident that God has foreseen every historical 
context, every cultural milieu, the societal mores of all generations, 
and each individual's personal circumstances, and that he intended 
the Holy Scriptures to be applied to all of them, indeed, that he has 
placed application within the very nature of the Bible. Application is 
a dimension of meaning. 

If these concerns are valid, then how does one determine the 
applicational aspect of the meaning of a passage? And how can the 
interpreter be sure that his application is a part of that meaning? The 
illumination of the Holy Spirit is crucial in this part of the her- 
meneutical process. In addition to the leading of the Spirit, the use of 
sensus plenior can provide assistance in making "meaningful" appli- 
cations. By exploring the canonical context, and reflecting on the 
relationships of a text to the whole, strata of meaning are realized 
which provide sound biblical parameters for application. 

The example of the second commandment in Exod 20:4 will 
serve well. It reads, "You shall not make for yourself an idol in the 
form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the 
waters below. You shall not bow down and worship them." In its 
historical significance this commandment is probably addressing reli- 
gious syncretism, or the worship of pagan deities. However, upon 
reflecting on the canonical context, one discovers that the concept of 
idolatry is expanded, and other dimensions of meaning for the com- 
mandment emerge. Eph 5:5 indicates that immorality, impurity, and 
greed constitute idolatrous behavior. Elsewhere as well, these three 
sins are identified as idols or considered as idolatrous behaviors (e.g., 
Col 3:5, 1 Cor 5:10; 6:9; 1 Pet 4:3). Even more profound a connection 
is seen in the simple command, "Keep yourselves from idols" (1 John 
5:21), where John summarizes his entire discussion concerning the 
things of God and the things of this world. His juxtaposition of the 
two realms clearly indicates that they are mutually repugnant, and so 
he says not to love the world or the things of the world (2:15). 
Functioning as a conclusion, the phrase, "Keep yourselves from idols," 
summarizes all that John meant when he gave the instruction not to 
love the world. In the light of the canonical context, then, the second 
commandment has far-reaching meaning in the present. The sensus 
plenior of idolatry involves giving anything or anyone higher priority 


than one should in his life. To do so causes sin, and replaces the 
priority that God claims over one's life with a priority of one's own 
choosing. The applications for twentieth century man are obvious. 
But are they part of the meaning in Exod 20:4? Yes. The canonical 
relationships that have been examined are clearly strata of the mean- 
ing of idolatry in God's second commandment. Moreover, they are 
not the result of allegorization but arise from legitimate relationships 
established within the one book (the Bible), by the one author (God). 
Since one is to avoid all forms of idolatry according to the expressed 
meaning of the text, the expressed meaning must include the sensus 
plenior of "idolatry." Consequently, the meaning of the text must also 
include the applications arising from the canonical context, for they 
are part and parcel of the sensus plenior. 

These suggestions for the use of sensus plenior in the application 
of biblical truth will, it is hoped, contribute meaningfully to the 
dialogue. There is certainly an urgent need for the discussion to 
continue. Ultimately, the normative value of Scripture for the life of 
God's people and the redemption of modern man is at stake. 


The canonical context is a complex network of relationships so 
integrated as to constitute an act of divine communication with 
properties not derivable from its discrete parts. In other words, the 
Bible is a type of gestalt. Within the parameters of this gestalt are 
texts that have strata of meaning by virtue of their integration into 
the whole, as well as meaning in the light of their historical origins. 
The suggestion put forth in this study is that hermeneutical meth- 
odology should include both approaches to meaning, thereby obtain- 
ing as many strata of the "single" expressed meaning of the text as 
possible. Furthermore, by reflecting on the canonical context one is 
able to see applications for the modern situation that are part of the 
warp and woof of a text's expressed meaning. It is essential that the 
church receive all the meaning that Scripture has for her. This is 
particularly important in the light of God's purpose in giving us his 
Word, which is to bring us into conformity to the image of his Son. 

Perhaps these proposals with respect to the use of sensus plenior 
will provide some basis for dialogue. It is hoped that all the parties 
concerned will continue to struggle with biblical meaning and con- 
tinue to pray for the illumination of the Holy Spirit as attempts are 
made to articulate a prophetic word for this generation. 37 

This article was originally prepared for the doctoral seminar entitled "Hermeneu- 
tical Foundations," at Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, Penn. The 
inspiration and assistance of Professor Vern S. Poythress are gratefully acknowledged. 

Grace Theological Journal 9 .1 (1988) 129-140 



James L. Boyer 

The optative mood is relatively rare in the NT and follows usage 
patterns of Classical Greek. Though most NT occurrences are voli- 
tive, some are clearly potential; the oblique optative, however, does 
not occur in the NT. Careful analysis suggests that the optative 
implies a less distinct anticipation than the subjunctive, but not less 

The student who comes to NT Greek from a Classical Greek 
background notices some differences in vocabulary, i.e., old 
words with new meanings and new words, slight differences in 
spelling, and some unfamiliar forms of inflection. But in syntax he is 
on familiar ground, except that it seems easier. He may hardly notice 
one of the major differences until it is called to his attention, and then 
it becomes the greatest surprise of all: the optative mood. Its surprise, 
however, is not that it is used differently or strangely; it just is not 
used much. 

Many of the old optative functions, particularly its use in subor- 
dinate clauses after a secondary tense, seemingly do not occur at all in 
the NT. On the other hand, the optatives which do occur follow the 
old patterns rather closely. What changes do occur are in the direc- 
tion of greater simplicity. 

Grammarians have pointed out that "the optative was a luxury 
of the language and was probably never common in the vernacular . . . 

* Informational materials and listings generated in the preparation of this study 
may be found in my "Supplemental Manual of Information: Optative Verbs." Those 
interested may secure this manual through their library by interlibrary loan from the 
Morgan Library, Grace Theological Seminary, 200 Seminary Dr., Winona Lake, IN 
46590. Also available are manuals of information supplementing previous articles of 
this series covering participles, infinitives, subjunctives and imperatives. 


a literary mood." 1 In the NT it is found almost solely in the writings 
of Luke and of Paul, with the more complex literary patterns in 
Luke. Paul's use is almost limited to the expression of a wish. There 
are four instances in the epistles of Peter, two in Jude, and one each 
in Mark and John. Surprisingly there is only one in the literary 
epistle to the Hebrews. 


The optative is so rare that most grammars of NT Greek do not 
include the paradigms for the optative forms. The inflectional ele- 
ments of the Greek verb in all the moods consist of three basic parts: 
(1) the verb or tense stem, (2) a thematic or connecting vowel, and 
(3) a set of inflectional endings indicating person and number. The 
optative uses the same verb or tense stems as the other moods. It adds 
a mood suffix (i or ir|) to the thematic vowel, o/s, resulting in a 
distinctive i-sound (-01-, -si-, -ai- or -oirj-, -sir]-, -air]-) before the 
ending. The optative uses the secondary endings in all its tenses (just 
as the subjunctive uses the primary endings). The actual resultant 
endings may be found in the major grammars. 


The Optative of Wish (Volitive) 

The name optative (from the Latin optari = to wish) points to 
one major use of the mood, to express a wish or a choice. It accounts 
for the majority of NT optatives (39 out of 68, or 57%). These may be 
grouped into six categories. 

Mf| yevoixo 

Best known of optative uses, and one of the most frequent, 3 the 
phrase \xt\ ysvono is an example of the volitive optative. In form it is 
a wish, "may it not happen." But it has become a stereotyped, 
idiomatic exclamation indicating revulsion and indignant, strong 
rejection. For this reason it is given a separate classification. The 
common English translation, "God forbid!" (King James Version) is 

'A. T. Robertson, A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of 
Historical Research (Nashville: Broadman, 1934)935-36. 

2 For Classical forms, see W. W. Goodwin, Greek Grammar, rev. by C. B. Gulick 
(Boston: Ginn, 1930); for NT forms see J. H. Moulton and W. F. Howard, A Grammar 
of New Testament Greek, Vol. II Accidence and Word Formation (Edinburgh: T. & T. 
Clark, 1920). 

3 It occurs 15 times, all but one is in Paul: Luke 20:16; Rom 3:4, 6, 31; 6:2, 15; 7:7, 
13; 9:14; 11:1, 11; 1 Cor 6:15; Gal 2:17; 3:21; 6:14. 

boyer: the classification of optatives 131 

not, of course, a literal translation (there is no word for God, and the 
verb does not mean "forbid"), but it expresses the sense accurately. 4 

Gal 6:14 is the only place where this phrase occurs as part of a 
longer sentence rather than standing alone as a two-word exclama- 
tion. In every other Pauline usage, it is an appropriate negative 
answer to a rhetorical question. In Luke 20:16 it is also a strong 
reply, this time to a threat of judgment. 

This phrase indicating strong rejection is not limited to NT 
writers. It was used in classical, 5 and in LXX. 6 Some have identified it 
as the only remnant of the optative in modern Greek. 

Formal Benediction 

This group and the next are actually indirect prayers, since, 
although addressed to someone else, they express a wish that God 
might do something. They are rather formal "benedictions" in which 
the spiritual leader, here Paul, invokes divine favor upon his readers. 

Their formal character is indicated also by two somewhat 
standardized patterns of expression: (1) God (6 Beoc; or 6 Kupioc; or 
both) is named first, usually rather formally described in terms 
appropriate to prayer, with the aorist active optative following: for 
example, Rom 15:5, 6 8e Gsoc; xfjc, wrouevfjc; Kai xf|c; 7rapaK>tf|as(0(; 
Scon, uuiv. "Now the God who gives perseverance and encouragement 
grant you. . . ." 8 (2) The optative is in the passive voice, the items 
wished for constitute the subject, and the agent or doer is unnamed, 
although clearly understood as God; 1 Pet 1:2, xapic, uulv Kai sipr|vr| 
7i?isi0uv08ir| "May grace and peace be yours in fullest measure" (also 
2 Pet 1:2, Jude 2, and 1 Thess 5:23b). 

Attention needs to be called here to the very large number of 
such benedictions in the NT where the verb is unexpressed and needs 

4 The NASB uses "May it never be!" The New King James version uses "Certainly 
not!" in every instance except one, where it preserves the KJV "God forbid!" The NIV 
uses a variety of phrases: "Not at all!" (4 times), "By no means!" (4), "Absolutely not!" 
(2), and once each, "May it never be!," "Certainly not!," "Far from it!," "Never!" and 
"May I never . . . !." 

5 W. W. Goodwin, Grammar, 279 (#1321). 

F. Blass and A. DeBrunner, A Greek Grammar of the New Testament and Other 
Early Christian Literature, trans, and rev. by Robert Funk (Chicago: University of 
Chicago, 1961) 194. 

7 J. T. Pring, Oxford Dictionary of Modern Greek (Oxford, 1982) 43; Robertson, 
Grammar, 939. But others have doubted this; cf. J. H. Moulton, Grammar of 
New Testament Greek, Vol. 1 Prolegomena (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1906) 240; 
Vincent A. Heinz, "The Optative Mood in the Greek New Testament," unpublished 
Master of Theology thesis, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1962, 20. 

8 Also, Rom 15:13, 1 Thess 3:11, 12 (two optatives involved), 5:23 (first optative), 
2 Thess 2:17 (two optatives), 3:5, 16; Heb 13:21. English translations are given from the 
NASB unless otherwise stated. 


to be supplied. In most cases that verb, if it were used, would be the 
optative of the copulative verb, ei'r|. 

Non-formal Blessing 

A second group of indirect prayers is less formal, expressing a 
wish for some specific blessing for someone else (Acts 26:29, 2 Tim 
1:16, 18, 4:16) or for oneself (1 Thess 3:11, Phlm 20). In these the 
optative stands before the reference to the Lord, and no descriptive 
words are used; 2 Tim 1:16, Scon. e?ieoc; 6 Kupiot;. "The Lord grant 
mercy" (also 1:18, Jude 9). 

Simple Request 

Not all wishes are specifically addressed to God; sometimes they 
relate to providence. Only two optatives are included in this category: 
2 Tim 4:16 is a gesture of Paul's forgiveness reflected in his wish that 
others will do the same; and Philemon 20 is a simple personal request. 
However, several of the wishes in the categories following might also 
be included here. 


The optative mood can be used for an adverse wish, or a curse. 
Only two that use the optative are usually listed for the NT, Mark 
11:4, Acts 8:20; another, Jude 9, probably also belongs here. In 
imprecatory sentences Classical Greek normally used the optative, 
but in the NT the imperative is used more often (cf. Gal 1:8, 9 
dv&Oeua satoi. "Let him be accursed," also 1 Cor 16:22 (with a 
colloquial form, r]x(o); in Acts 1:20, Luke uses the imperative )ia(3sxco 
instead of the LXX optative Mfkn when quoting from Ps 108[109]:8). 
The close kinship between the optative of wish and the imperative of 
command is seen also in Mark 1 1:4. 


One example uses the optative in a passage which seems to 
express permission or acceptance rather than the eager hope which 
the English word 'wish' conveys. Luke 1:38 ysvouo uoi Korea to pfjjad 
aou "Be it done to me according to your word." It is possible that 
Mary's attitude toward the announcement she had just received may 
have been strong anticipation and desire, but it seems more plausible 
that these words express deliberate choice and willing submission on 
her part. 

boyer: the classification of optatives 133 

The Potential Optative 

The term "potential" is used in grammar to describe action which 
is dependent on circumstances or conditions, that which would or 
might happen if circumstances are right or if conditions are met. In 
Greek there is a potential indicative used to express a past action as 
dependent on past circumstances or conditions, and the potential 
optative used to express such actions in the future, as well as 
potential uses of the subjunctive in third class conditions and de- 
liberative questions. Usually these constructions use the modal par- 
ticle dv. Concerning the potential optative, the Classical grammarian 
Wm. W. Goodwin says, 

The limiting condition is generally too indefinite to be distinctly present 
to the mind, and can be expressed only by words like perhaps, 
possibly, or probably, or by such vague forms as // he pleased, or if 
he should try, if he could, if there should be an opportunity, etc. 
Sometimes a general condition, like in any possible case, is felt to be 
implied, so that the optative with dv hardly differs from an absolute 
future. ..." 

The NT potential use of the optative is in accord with the 
Classical usage, except it is much less frequent and does not include 
all the facets found in Classical Greek. These have been summarized 
into four groups. 

Potential Optative in Questions 

Certainly one of the characteristics of the NT use of the optative 
mood is its strong tendency to occur in questions and in connection 
with questions. As noted above, 13 out of 15 occurrences of uf| 
ysvoixo serve as answers to rhetorical questions. Even more surpris- 
ing is the fact that 20 of the 29 potential optatives in the NT occur 
within questions. 

No indication has been found of such a tendency in older 
Greek, nor any suggestion as to the reason for and significance of 
this phenomenon in the NT. It may be that it is related to the basic 
idea of potentiality that belongs to the mood. At a time when the 
optative was becoming archaic and other forms of expression were 
replacing it in ordinary speech, the added "potentiality" which 

"Goodwin, Grammar, 282 (#1327). 
H. W. Smyth, Greek Grammar (Cambridge: Harvard Univ., 1976) 407-8 
mentions the use of the optative in questions, but no indication is given that this is a 
special feature of the mood. 


inherently is involved in a question may have made it more likely that 
the optative should survive there. 

Potential Optative in Direct Questions. Two examples are 
found in this category: Acts 8:31 and 17:18. Both have the particle dv 
and the sense is clearly potential. They express puzzled curiosity. Like 
those following, they are within a quotation, but it is a direct quota- 
tion, which would require that the original forms be preserved. 

Potential Optative in Indirect Questions. The difference be- 
tween these and the preceding category is that they are in indirectly 
quoted questions rather than direct. This raises the question (to be 
discussed below) whether they should rather be classified as "oblique" 
optatives. They are grouped here, however, on the basis of their 

This group is the largest, with 17 examples. All but one are in the 
writings of Luke. The indirect question is introduced by the inter- 
rogative pronoun lie;, xi 1 1 times, 8 of them 12 with the particle dv; by 
the interrogative si (= whether) 4 times, by (if|Tcoxs (= whether) and 
Ttoxcnroc;, once each. When dv is present the potential quality is 
obvious. Those introduced by ei are not conditional in meaning; 
rather they are interrogative, reflecting a direct question that is 
potential. 13 Most are introduced by governing verbs which suggest the 
element of uncertainty and perplexity, Sia^oyi^ouai (3), 5ia7iopsa) 
(2), hiakaki^, STispcoxdu), 7iuv9dvouai, avC,r\xt(a. They may be sub- 
divided into several types, illustrating different potential factors: 

(1) What does it mean? (Luke 1:29, 8:9, 15:26, 18:36, Acts 10:17) 

(2) Which of many? (Luke 1:62, 6:11, 9:46, 22:23) 

(3) Yes or No? (Luke 3:15, Acts 17:11) 

(4) Who are you? / Who is he? (John 13:24, Acts 21:33) 

(5) What will come of this? (Acts 5:24) 

(6) Are you willing? (Acts 25:20) 

(7) Shall we try? (Acts 17:27 twice) 

A crucial question here is whether or not these questions would 
be in the optative if they were standing alone or quoted directly. 

"Luke 1:29, 62; 3:15; 6:11; 8:9; 9:46; 15:26; 18:36; 22:23; John 13:24; Acts 5:24; 
10:17; 17:11, 27 (two optatives), 21:33; 25:20. 

"One, Luke 18:36, has av as a textual variant, as noted in Nestle's Greek 
Testament, edition 26. 

There may be another example in Acts 27:12 if we understand the sense to be 
that they put to sea [to see] whether they could spend the winter in a safe harbor (the 
direct question involved would be "Can we possibly do it?"). But it seems better to 
understand it to mean that they went "thinking that they might reach . . .", or "in order 
to, if possible, reach. ..." If that is the meaning it becomes an example of a parenthetic 
fourth class protasis. 

boyer: the classification of optatives 135 

Whether they are optative because they are potential, or because they 
are being quoted indirectly after a past tense main verb (i.e., oblique 
optatives), will be discussed below. 

Potential Optative in Protases 

There is no complete example in the NT of the Classical Future 
Less Vivid condition (often referred to as fourth-class conditions), 
which used the potential optative in both the protasis and the 
apodosis. In a few places, the protasis uses the potential optative, but 
the apodosis does not follow the pattern. Either it is incomplete, with 
the verb left to be understood (1 Pet 3:14, 17), or it takes a different 
form (Acts 24:19), or it is totally absent (Acts 20:16, 27:39, 1 Cor 
14:10, 15:37). 

One group poses no problem of identification: some form of the 
verb eiui is to be supplied and the whole is a mixed condition. If, as is 
likely in 1 Pet 3:14, the indicative sots is supplied, the fourth-class 
protasis is combined with a first-class apodosis. In 1 Pet 3:17, if an 
indicative screw is supplied, the result is the same. If, as is presumably 
possible, an optative si'ri is supplied, it becomes a full fourth-class 
condition. In both cases, the optative in the protasis is a potential 

Acts 24:19 has a potential optative in the protasis, and an 
imperfect indicative in the apodosis, s5ei. Classical grammar provides 
a suggestion: "The imperfects eSei, XP*1 V or EXP^v* ^n v J eikoc, i\v, 
and other impersonal expressions denoting obligation, propriety, 
possibility, and the like, are often used without av to form an 
apodosis implying that the duty is not or was not performed, or the 
possibility not realized." 1 Thus s5ei, even without av, is in effect a 
potential indicative and this example comes close to being a full 
fourth-class condition. 

Another group is quite different. There is no apodosis, nor is one 
to be mentally supplied. The sentences are not conditional sentences 
at all. In each case a brief stereotyped phrase 15 in the form of a 
protasis is attached almost as a parenthesis to some element of the 
sentence, not to the sentence itself. This seems especially clear in 
1 Cor 14:10 and 15:37, where ei xu%oi is translated "perhaps" in 

'"Goodwin, Grammar, 297 (#1410a). 
Horn several times calls attention to the frequent appearance of the optative in 
set phrases or expressions; "The optatives that do occur frequently (wishes, potential, 
possible protases) occur for the most part in certain well defined phrases and 
expressions", and "certain fixed phrases occur, some of which . . . are rather paren- 
thetical." (R. C. Horn, The Use of the Subjunctive and Optative in the Non- Literary 
Papyri, Westbrook Publ. Co., [Philadelphia, 1926] 143, 161. 


NASB; "it may be" and "it may chance" in KJV; literally, "if it should 
turn out so". The other examples are very similar. In Acts 20:16 the 
phrase si Suvaiov si'r| does not go with SG7i£u5sv ("he was hurrying if 
he were able"), but with ysveaBai ("he was hurrying to be in 
Jerusalem, if possible"). In Acts 27:39, essentially the same phrase, ei 
Suvaivto, goes with s^coaai ("they resolved to drive, if they could, the 
ship onto it"). Probably Acts 27:12, using the same phrase, belongs 
here also (cf. footnote 13). In all these the optative is potential. 

The Oblique Optative 

One of the commonest of Classical usages of the optative was the 
change of the mood of a verb in a subordinate clause from indicative 
or subjunctive to optative following a governing verb in a secondary 
or past tense, or the change to optative when the sentence was 
included in indirect discourse after a secondary tense. This use has 
been referred to by various terms; 16 here it will be called the Oblique 

The almost total absence of this construction in the NT may in 
part reflect that in the NT, direct discourse is preferred over indirect, 
and that even in the Classical the change was not required. It is 
apparent that the general decline of the optative was more severe in 
this usage than in the volitive and potential. This is not surprising, for 
the extreme complexity of the practice, as reflected by the multiplicity 
of "rules" generated by the Classical grammarians in their effort to 
describe it, would have tended toward its abandonment. 

In discussing this usage Blass-Debrunner includes the examples 
listed above under the heading, Potential Optatives in Indirect 
Questions. It is true that indirect questions could in Classical Greek 
use this oblique optative. The optative then could be representing an 
indicative or subjunctive in the direct question. But an examination 
of the actual examples points strongly to the conclusion that the 
optative is what we should expect in the original question. Blass- 
Debrunner recognizes this in at least some of the examples, saying 
"[Luke's] examples usually have dv with the optative and accordingly 
correspond to the potential optative of the direct question." 17 
Robertson expresses the same evaluation, speaking about Acts 17:18, 

,6 Blass-DeBrunner {Grammar, 195) calls it the Oblique Optative. Several gram- 
marians, for example, Robertson {Grammar, 1030), Smyth {Grammar, 379), Goodwin 
{Grammar, 314), refer to it as Optative in Indirect Discourse. This designation, 
however, only partially describes the practice, which includes not only clauses in 
indirect discourse but many other subordinate clauses after secondary tenses, and is 
therefore somewhat misleading. 

Blass-Debrunner, Grammar, 195. 

boyer: the classification of optatives 137 

"Why not rather suppose a "hesitating" (deliberative) direct question 
like xi oiv GeXoi 6 anspuoXoyog ouxoc; A-sysiv; ... As already 
remarked, the context shows doubt and perplexity in the indirect 
questions which have dv and the opt. in the N.T." 18 If that is the case 
they should be so classified, rather than assigned to the oblique 
category. The same may be said of all the examples, as has been 
shown in the discussion above. 

Aside from these indirect questions there is only one other 
example claimed of the oblique optative. It is in Acts 25:16, involving 
two optative verbs in a temporal clause after a secondary tense, thus 
in form fitting the definition of the oblique optative. But again, it 
need not be so if there is reason to think that the mood would have 
been optative in the direct form. Here again Classical grammar helps, 
npiv was used with an infinitive chiefly when it meant before, and 
when the leading clause was affirmative. It was used with the indica- 
tive, and with the subjunctive and optative only after negatives. 19 
Several examples are given where 7ipiv is followed by the optative. So 
it is possible that the optative verbs after npiv are not the oblique 
form, but the original form. The potential character of the sentence is 
obvious. It should then be listed as the only example of another 
category, Potential Optative in Subordinate Clauses. 

Therefore, it may be concluded that there are really no oblique 
optatives to be found in the NT. All the possible instances are 
explainable as potential optatives apart from the fact that they occur 
in a subordinate clause after a secondary tense. 


The concept of degrees of potentiality has been discussed else- 
where as it relates to the comparison of third and fourth class 
conditional sentences. There the claims and comments of the gram- 
marians on the concept in general as well as its application to that 
specific question were reviewed. That discussion is assumed when 
application of it is made to the optative mood and its two major NT 

The optative is generally, and properly, called a potential mood, 
as are also the subjunctive and the imperative. It speaks of something 
as being contingent, depending on conditions or circumstances, 
involving some degree of uncertainty or doubt. The problem arises 
when the choice of moods is made whether some well-defined scheme 

18 Robertson, Grammar, 940. 
'"Goodwin, Grammar, 311 (#1485 a.,b; #1486 b.). 

20 See James L. Boyer, "Third (and Fourth) Class Conditions," GTJ 3 (1982) 


of graduated degrees of potentiality is reflected, so that the sub- 
junctive becomes the mood of probability, the optative of improba- 
bility. As the earlier study showed, the subjunctive in third class 
conditions does not fit into any such pattern, but rather runs the 
whole spectrum from certainty to impossibility with the^vast majority 
showing no indication at all as to probability. The same is also true 
with the optative. There are degrees of potentiality within the moods, 
but not between the moods. 

Goodwin's comment on the potential optative cited above 21 

The potential optative can express every degree of potentiality from the 
almost absolute future ... to the apodosis of a future condition ex- 
pressed by the optative with av. The intermediate steps may be seen in 
[a number of] examples. . . ." 2 

He uses almost the same words to describe the potential indicative: 

The potential indicative may express every degree of potentiality from 
that seen in [# 1336: 'what would have been likely to happen, i.e.,. might 
have happened (and perhaps did happen) with no reference to any 
condition.'] to that of the apodosis of an unfulfilled condition actually 
expressed. . . . The intermediate steps to the complete apodosis may-be 
seen in [a number of] examples. . . ." 23 

As indicated elsewhere, this same latitude is present in the 
subjunctive third class conditions and in other uses of the subjunctive 
as well. Also, the imperative expresses ideas ranging from commands 
to requests, from ultimatums to permissions." 

Thus, degree of potentiality is a factor within all the moods, but 
it is not a distinguishing factor between the moods. It is not correct to 
say that the subjunctive is "more probable" or that the optative is 
"less probable." The mood used does not in any sense indicate how 
confident one can be that something will or will not happen. A fairer 
explanation of the distinction is to be found in the terminology used 
in Classical grammars to distinguish between conditional protases 
with the subjunctive and with the optative, calling them respectively 
"Future More Vivid" and "Future Less Vivid." 5 The distinction is 
not in an evaluation of the degree of potentiality, but in the distinct- 
Footnote 9 above. 

22 Goodwin, Grammar, 282 (#1328). 

23 Ibid., 284 (#1339). 

4 See James L. Boyer, "A Classification of Imperatives: A Statistical Study" GTJS 
(1987) 36-40. 

"Goodwin, Grammar, 298-99 (#1418); Smyth, Grammar, 522-23 (#2322). Smyth 
expresses it especially well: "The difference between the More Vivid Future and the 
Less Vivid Future, like the difference between if I (shall) do this, and if I should do 

boyer: the classification of optatives 139 

ness and vividness with which the speaker or writer chooses to 
express the potentiality. 

alternative ways of expressing a wish 

While one of the most common uses of the optative is to express 
a wish, it should not be concluded that this was the only, or even the 
most common, way of doing so. It is beyond the scope of this article 
to examine these other ways, but it may be helpful to mention some 
of them. Particularly, it will be helpful to compare NT Greek with the 
Classical patterns to see what changes actually occurred. 

One very obvious way to express a wish is a simple statement 
using the word "wish" or "want" or "desire." Many NT wishes are 
expressed by using the verb OeAco or (3ouAouai. These words are 
capable of expressing many degrees of appeal to the will, from the 
slightest expression of hope or desire (as the English word "wish" 
does) to a strong request or demand. 

There was a tendency in NT Greek to use the imperative mood 
where the older Greek would probably have used the volitive optative. 
For example, in imprecations or adverse wishes, for which the 
Classical used the optative, the NT sometimes substitutes the impera- 
tive: Gal 1:8,9 dv&Gsua sotco "let him be accursed," also 1 Cor 16:22. 
In Acts 1:20 the imperative ^af58i(o is used in quoting from a text 
which in the LXX (Ps 108[109]:8) had the optative Tuxpot. 

6(peAov with the indicative is used four times in the NT to 
express a wish, in a construction which in Classical used an infinitive 
instead of an indicative following. 

The protasis of a conditional clause, with the apodosis omitted, 
may be a way of expressing a wish, as in Luke 19:42 ei eyvcoc; . . . , "If 
you had known . . . !" 

this, depends on the mental attitude of the speaker. With the Vivid Future the speaker 
sets forth a thought as prominent and distinct in his mind; and for any one or more of 
the various reasons. Thus, he may (and generally does) regard the conclusion to be 
more likely to be realized; but even an impossible (2322c) or dreaded result may be 
expressed by this form if the speaker chooses to picture the result vividly and distinctly. 
The More Vivid Future is thus used whenever th^ speaker clearly desires to be graphic, 
impressive, emphatic, and to anticipate a future result with the distinctness of the 

"The Less Vivid Future deals with suppositions less distinctly conceived and of less 
immediate concern to the speaker, mere assumed or imaginary cases. This is a favorite 
construction in Greek, and is often used in stating suppositions that are merely possible 
and often impossible; but the form of the condition itself does not imply an expectation 
of the speaker that the conclusion may possibly be realized. The difference between the 
two forms, therefore, is not an inherent difference between probable realization in the 
one case and possible realization in the other. The same thought may often be 
expressed in either form without any essential difference in meaning. The only 
difference is, therefore, often that of temperament, tone or style." 


Ei'Be, a dialectic variant of si and si yap, which was used in 
Classical Greek with the optative to express a wish, is not found in 

the NT. 


Of the 28,121 verbs in the New Testament there are 68 optatives, 
less than one quarter of 1%. The optative had practically disappeared 
from the common language, and only later received a temporary 
revival by Atticizing purists who were attempting to restore the 
literary language of Greece's golden age. Why did it appear at all in a 
book written in the Koivf| of the people? It is a needless question, 
and probably unimportant. But Turner 26 makes a very interesting 

. . . the old potential optative — admirably suited to Christian aspira- 
tion and piety! Indeed, one must not reject too lightly the possibility 
that the optatives in the NT owed their preservation in some measure 
to their incidence in the pompous and stereotyped jargon of devotion. 
These optative phrases are decidedly formal. . . . The retention of the 
optative at a time when everywhere they were diminishing need not 
surprise us in view of their value for the liturgy, Jewish [in the LXX] 
and Christian. 

26 Nigel Turner, A Grammar of New Testament Greek, vol. 3; Syntax (Edinburgh: 
T.& T.Clark, 1963) 131-32. 


The Moody Atlas of Bible Lands, by Barry J. Beitzel. Chicago: Moody, 1985. 
Pp. vii + 234. $29.95. Cloth. 

Although this atlas joins more than a score of others published between 
1945 and 1985, it is one of the best. The author's stated purpose is to 
demonstrate that God "prepared the Promised Land for His chosen people 
with the same degree of care that He prepared His chosen people for the 
Promised Land" (p. xv). 

The atlas is divided into three major sections. First, Beitzel describes the 
topographic and environmental features that figure prominently in the land: 
geography, topography, geology, hydrology, etc. Second, Beitzel unfolds 
diachronically the events that have transpired in the Holy Land that are 
especially conducive to a geographic explanation. He treats the Patriarchs as 
historical personages, accepts an early date for the Exodus, and regularly sets 
the historical events within the larger context of the world of that day. Third, 
he briefly describes the history of biblical mapmaking. 

Several features add to the value of this atlas: an index of all maps and 
figures, a comparative timeline spanning 10,000 B.C. to a.d. 100 (comparing 
Egypt, Palestine, Mesopotamia, Syria, Asia Minor, and Greece/ Rome), three 
indices, an alphabetical map citation index, a Scripture index, and an extra- 
Biblical literature index. 

The careful weaving of maps and figures throughout the text of the 
volume places it between atlases that are primarily collections of maps and 
those that are, for the most part, running text. To assist the reader, a red 
number appears to connect an important geographic reference mentioned in 
the text with the correct location on the relevant map. Also, great pains have 
been taken (pp. xvi-xvii) to use several color shades in the historical maps. 
This use of carefully chosen colors helps to clarify otherwise complicated 

The major shortcoming of this atlas is the brevity of the bibliography. 
Even though it is only intended to provide a select citation of prominent 
works in the field of biblical geography, a student desiring to dig deeper 
into certain areas must look elsewhere for any significant bibliographical 

The Moody Atlas of Bible Lands is a well-rounded atlas providing a 
good combination of text and illustration. It would be a potential text for a 
college-level Bible geography class and surely would be an excellent refer- 
ence tool to add to one's library. 

Michael A. Grisanti 
Central Baptist Theological Seminary 


1 Kings, by Simon J. DeVries, and 2 Kings, by T. R. Hobbs. Word Biblical 
Commentary. Waco: Word, 1985. Pp. lxiv + 286 and xlvii + 388. $18.95 ea. 

The appearance of the two volumes on Kings in the Word Biblical 
Commentary series authored by two prominent Old Testament scholars pro- 
vides an interesting contrast in hermeneutical approach. DeVries, the author 
of the volume on 1 Kings, attaches great importance to a critical examination 
of the text in order to understand not only the processes by which the present 
text has been compiled but also its original life setting. Accordingly, DeVries 
presents the results of his painstaking labor in both the MT and the various 
Greek witnesses. The book is therefore a valuable repository of data relative 
to the reading of the text. 

DeVries also is very concerned about sacred history and background 
matters. Following brief discussions of the geographical, cultural, political, 
and religious situations represented in 1 Kings, DeVries centers his attention 
on matters of sacred history as a guide to understanding the composition of 
the book. DeVries finds two underlying tenets to biblical history that dif- 
ferentiate it from the religious myths of the surrounding cultures: (1) the 
belief in a transcendent monotheism, and (2) the belief in a God who was an 
authentic person. 

Israel's amazing achievement was a transcendental theology by which it 
approached God as a single, whole, complete, and sovereign Person. Though 
Lord over all things, his personhood was not caught up in any of them. He 
refused to be caricatured, distorted, diluted. He refused to be used or manipu- 
lated, like a thing. He refused to allow any aspect of his being to be taken as its 
whole (pp. xxxi). 

Further, Israel could and did see itself not in terms of being an heir of a 
mythological past but a people uniquely chosen by a personal God who acts 
in history. 

DeVries contends that although 1 Kings meets every standard of being a 
genuinely historiographic document, it is nonetheless a prophetic book that 
"was written by men who wished to bear testimony to Yahweh's self-revelation 
in historical event" (p. xxxv). Thus, its readers must learn to read it as such 
and to distinguish carefully between historicity (factual occurrence and 
accurate reporting) and historicality (self-awareness in historical existence). It 
is evident that much of the narrative in Kings belongs to the latter category. 
For DeVries, it is a misconception to judge Kings by modern standards of 
what constitutes history; although one need not be overly skeptical of its 
factualism, its readers must remember the literary genre to which it properly 
belongs. For example, 1 Kings 17-22 is best understood as "prophet legend/ 
story" whose function is didactic and inspirational, rather than being 
designed simply to record information. 

The important point to remember is that the aim of these stories is less to record 
what God has done (historically, at one particular time and place), than to 
declare what God can do (throughout history, in every time and place). The 
prophet stories must be studied, then, for what they teach, not simply for what 


they tell. The telling is an imaginative technique but the truth taught is pro- 
foundly theological (pp. xxxvi-vii). 

This leads DeVries to evaluate 1 Kings as a literary composition and use 
a form-tradition-redaction critical method for determining the various layers 
of composition that eventuated in the final work of the deuteronomic school. 

Since the work as a whole is a part of the deuteronomistic history, com- 
posed most probably by a contemporary of King Josiah and revised by a 
member of the same school living during the Babylonian exile, ca. 550 B.C., we 
are dealing with a period of perhaps four hundred years for all the materials in 
1 Kgs to have been selected, reshaped, and made to assume final literary form — 
final, that is, apart from isolated glosses of comments that are even later than 
the work of the (second) deuteronomist ..." (pp. xlii-iii). 

The investigation of the proposed sources at the deuteronomist's disposal and 
the isolating of supposed personal editorial intrusions enable DeVries to see 
the dominant tenets of deuteronomistic theology (pp. xlvii-viii) and to con- 
clude: "So central and persistent is Dtr's mention of the continuity of the 
Davidic dynasty that no careful reader can doubt that this is his major 
theme" (p. xlviii). 

Following some summary remarks on the various types of source 
material available for the deuteronomist and the isolating of certain "post- 
deuteronomistic expansions" (pp. xlix-lii), DeVries applies his principles in 
the commentary proper, which is set in the familiar format for the WBC 
series. His translations and text critical notes, and the accompanying bib- 
liography to each section, show a thorough acquaintance and interaction with 
the text and its problems. Applying his methods, he finds: 1 Kings 1-2 to be 
part of the throne succession document that begins at 2 Samuel 9 (p. 8); 
1 Kgs 3:1-11:13 to have its basic source in the Book of Solomon's Acts; 
1 Kings 12-16 to be accounts of the two kingdoms up to Ahab's time drawn 
from various sources; and 1 Kings 17-22 to be a collection of prophet stories 
from the time of Elijah. 

Although DeVries has demonstrated his fine acquaintance with the 
material of 1 Kings, the end product is somewhat unsettling. Literary forms 
are consistently used to give a clue to the life situation, which is then used to 
interpret the form and its meaning, a process that is at best hypothetical and 
certainly circular. The proposed grid of the deuteronomist's theological per- 
spective is spread upon the text to discover both the compilation process and 
the purposes for the book's composition. The resultant "historicality" of the 
editor's perspective frequently leaves open the historical trustworthiness of 
the section in question (e.g., pp. 48-50, 121-23, 148-49, 226-27, 266-70). 
Entirely too often, DeVries leads his readers on a tortuous quest for imagined 
source documents and settings only to return with a patchwork of assorted 
threads that have become unraveled from the larger fabric. Indeed, the whole 
process flies in the face of a growing consensus of research that deals with 
biblical narrative not as an aggregate of disjointed sources but the product of 
the conscious effort of a skilled narrator who has composed the entire literary 
piece. Further, despite his early statement of high regard for the Scriptures 
(p. ix), DeVries's reference to "Israel's amazing achievement" in theological 


perspective (p. xxxi) and his belief that much of Kings was not intended "to 
be taken as literal historical records" (p. xxxvi) leave the reverse impression. 
Rather than being viewed as man's achievement formed purposefully without 
regard to historical accuracy, Kings (and the Scriptures as a whole) needs to 
be studied as a trustworthy account of God's revelation. Despite the evident 
piety of the author, this commentary does not provide spiritual insight for the 
pastor or general reader and that was apparently not its purpose. For 
scholars, however, it is an important study on the text, sacred history, and 
composition of 1 Kings. 

It is both refreshing and enlightening to turn to Hobbs's commentary on 
2 Kings. It is, as the words of the book jacket proclaim, a "commonsense 
examination" of 2 Kings. After some general observations relative to the 
organization of 2 Kings and to the author's concern for cultic matters, the 
role of prophecy, and the importance of Torah, Hobbs gives his reasons for 
believing that the books of Joshua through 2 Kings were written by one 
author, the "deuteronomist" (so named because he uses the book of Deu- 
teronomy "as a model standard of behavior for people and kings and con- 
tinually refers to its legislation" [p. xxiv]). Hobbs urges the reading of 
2 Kings as the product of a skilled author "whose intention was to tell the 
story of the failed experiment of monarchy in Israel and Judah, and to 
interpret that failure" (p. xxvi): the writer "has crafted a work with remark- 
able skill and perception, and in the execution of that task he has employed a 
variety of literary techniques" (p. xxvi). Hobbs then discusses the author's 
literary techniques (pp. xxvii-xxx), the historical sources at the author's 
command, and suggests that 2 Kings was probably written in Babylon during 
the exile in order to stress to the exiles the importance of recognizing the 
reasons for God's judgment. The deuteronomist was calling the people to 
turn to God and his law in order that the benefits of the Davidic Covenant 
might once again be realized (pp. xxx-xxxvii; cf. pp. 103, 282). The introduc- 
tion closes with a consideration of chronology and text, and an excellent 

Throughout the main portion of the commentary Hobbs remains true to 
the thesis that the author of Kings if concerned to show the reason for the 
tragedy of the fall of Jerusalem that led to the exile: Israel's apostasy and 
disobedience both to the law of Moses and God's prophets. While Hobbs 
never loses sight of the theme and its development in Kings (note his treat- 
ment of Kings in terms of plot and counterplot, p. 34), he interacts at every 
stage with matters of critical concern and with the viewpoints of others. He 
also introduces several helpful excursus on critical issues (pp. 1-4, 25-27, 
39-41, 62, 156-58, 184-85, 204-5, 260-62). 

The result is a commentary that evidences a careful employment of 
critical tools in an effort to examine Kings in its proper setting as a complete 
literary production. Although some evangelicals will not always agree with 
Hobbs's conclusions (e.g., that the "deuteronomist" wrote all of Joshua- 
Kings, pp. xxiv, 325; that one ought not to discuss the "historicity" of the 
prophets' miracles, p. 54; cf. pp. 49-58, 292-93; that Hezekiah's prayers were 
"rather self-serving," p. 290; and that the conflicting details in the accounts 
concerning the death of Josiah in 2 Kgs 23:29-30 and 2 Chr 35:22-25 are 


"obvious and irreconcilable," p. 340), it is clear that this is a serious com- 
mentary that presents its readers with the polished efforts of an author who, 
in reaching his conclusions concerning the text of Kings, has skillfully 
balanced the data of grammar, history, literature, and theology. Further, 
unlike similar commentaries aimed at a serious scholarly audience, Hobbs's 
book reads well. It leaves the reader with a sense of the flow of thought of the 
text that is being considered. 

Again, this commentary lacks personal and spiritual application, but the 
fault may lie with the formal agenda of the series rather than the author. 
Scholarly commentaries seldom get practical. Devotional commentaries rarely 
get serious with the text. It is perhaps time for a series that will provide for its 
readers the fruits of solid scholarship blended together with spiritually per- 
ceptive insight as to how God's revealed truth can be realized in the life of the 
individual believer. 

Richard Patterson 
Liberty University 

Toward Rediscovering the Old Testament, by Walter C. Kaiser, Jr. Grand 
Rapids: Zondervan, 1987. Pp. 219. $17.95. Cloth. 

With this book Kaiser continues his series of "Toward . . ." books, all 
very stimulating and helpful (see Toward an Old Testament Theology, 
Zondervan, 1978; Toward an Exegetical Theology, Baker, 1981; and Toward 
Old Testament Ethics, Zondervan, 1983). Kaiser is a seasoned scholar — the 
kind who should author such a book. In it he covers important critical, 
exegetical, and theological territory under three main headings: the Old 
Testament and Scholarship, the Old Testament and Theology, and the Old 
Testament and Life. 

The number of topics Kaiser broaches requires that they usually be 
treated in a summary manner. This, of course, renders him vulnerable to 
being either misunderstood or criticized for not covering this or that aspect of 
a subject. Kaiser himself has dealt with many of the topics in greater depth 
elsewhere, and the copious references to his other books and articles should 
be understood in this light, not as hubris. This review omits the picky 
bantering to which such a book might be subjected and, instead, focuses on 
substantial exegetical and theological issues. But in light of the breadth of the 
book, comments must be selective. 

The intended audience of the book is "not only scholars but also the 
whole church" (p. 11). Although it is debatable whether "laypeople" will 
generally be able to follow many of the discussions found in the book, 
Kaiser's stated desire to communicate on that level must, nevertheless, be 
taken into consideration. Truly technical discussions are not to be expected, 
and a certain amount of overstatement is allowable if it is not misleading. 

With regard to the latter point, there are occasions where Kaiser's 
assessment of the situation, whether in terms of exegesis or application of the 
text, is overstated to the extent of being misleading. For example, his first 


chapter is entitled "The Old Testament as the Christian Problem." He dis- 
cusses the significance, historical development, theological ramifications, and 
New Testament evidence of the centrality that the Old Testament holds in 
terms of problems in the church and in the Christian life. Similarly, Kaiser 
seems convinced that the reason the church has not taken an adequate stand 
against the evils of modern society (e.g., abortion, poverty, injustice) is 
because of a lack of familiarity with the Old Testament (see, e.g., .pp. 184 
and 190). 

This understanding of the lack of ethical backbone, however, seems 
overly cognitive. Rather, the problem finds its roots in the general anemia of 
the American church. Likewise, to focus the problems of the church on the 
Old Testament seems farfetched. Of course, the lack of depth in spiritual 
understanding and concern, caused partially by the lack of concentration on 
the character of God as found in the Old and New Testaments, contributes 
significantly to the anemia. Other factors are the spiritual blindness caused by 
worldly affluence, the influence of the humanistic mindset in the church, etc. 

Our author is certainly well known for following Willis Beecher in 
focusing attention on "Promise" in the Old Testament. He assigns it the 
central position in Old Testament theology and in chapter 4 gives a summary 
and support for this view. But other centers have been suggested, while some 
scholars have questioned even the validity of attempting to find such a center. 
Kaiser claims that his is an inductively derived center, but one wonders 
whether it is more assumed, especially since he himself admits that it is 
selective and since he is unable to adequately relate whole sections of the Old 
Testament to its presumed center (see, e.g., the critique in Gerhard F. Hasel, 
Old Testament Theology: Basic Issues in the Current Debate, revised and 
updated, Eerdmans, 1982, pp. 55-58). "Promise" is certainly a very important 
theme in the Old (and New) Testament, and Kaiser has carefully articulated 
it. However, he has not established that it is the theological center of Old 
Testament. Even the criteria for defining a center are in doubt. 

In an extended discussion of canon and critical methods, Kaiser asks 
whether the Christian should believe in a future (or present day?) restoration 
of Israel to her land as a part of the prophetic promise. His conclusion is: "To 
delete restoration to the land from the promise-covenant of God and to 
superimpose the NT over the OT would be to form a canon within a canon" 
(p. 58). Though Kaiser's arguments and conclusions are valid, his discussion 
of the conditionality of the covenant is inadequate (pp. 50-51, see also 
pp. 151-55). It is doubtful that the ancients could have conceived of a 
covenant between volitional beings that did not have conditions attached. 

In a discussion of the promise-plan of God, Kaiser's analysis of prophecy 
from the perspective of what he has called elsewhere, "generic prophecy," is 
very well stated (see pp. 103ff.). However, his discussion of the Old Testament 
sacrifices as subjectively but not objectively efficacious is not adequate 
(pp. 133-35). Sacrifices functioned on the level of the particular covenant to 
which they were attached. On the one hand, the Mosaic covenant held no 
promise for eternal life (see, e.g., Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28) and, 
therefore, neither did its sacrifices. On the other hand, the New Covenant in 
Christ does indeed hold promise for eternal life, and that is the level on which 
Christ's sacrifice functions for those in the household of faith. 


Kaiser also discusses the importance of the Old Testament for Christian 
living and preaching. His discussion of how to derive principles from the law 
that will apply to the Christian life is very useful (pp. 155-66). However, it is 
surprising that he did not rely more heavily upon such New Testament 
passages as Matt 22:34-40 (and parallels), John 13:34-35, Rom 13:8-10, 
2 Cor 3:5-6, Gal 5:13ff., etc. Also, he did not deal with the relevance of the 
Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) for the church as it relates to the Old 
Testament law, overlooking the notion that having the law written upon the 
heart (Jer 31:33) is the same as living it from the heart as explained in 
Matt 5:20ff. 

Kaiser concludes his book with a rousing exhortation that the Old 
Testament be taken seriously in the church for its own good and for the cause 
of Christ. His appeal is for careful reflection through the major issues of Old 
Testament and Biblical theology and their relevance for the church and 
Christian life. 

Though this book can be criticized at various points, its value is not 
diminished, for it reflects firsthand experience in the Hebrew text, in-depth 
theological thinking, and serious application of the text to the Christian life 
and the church. Every theological student and pastor will derive great benefit 
from reading it seriously. 

Richard E. Averbeck 
Grace Theological Seminary 

Introducing the New Testament, by John Drane. San Francisco: Harper and 
Row, 1986. Pp. 479. $19.95. Cloth. 

Readable, thorough, balanced, and evangelical is a rare combination of 
features in the textbook market. But Drane 's volume deserves each of those 
designations and more. Though the majority of the material was previously 
published in three volumes, Jesus and the Four Gospels, Paul and The Life of 
the Early Church, this expansion and combination into one should be 
welcomed in evangelical circles. 

A casual glance at Introducing the NT might leave the impression that 
this is a book for a general reading audience. In this case, contemporary 
photographs and charts, wide margins, and an excellent layout do not in- 
dicate that the accompanying text is superficial and simplistic. Though this 
book will have some appeal to lay readers, it will not shortchange serious 
Bible students at the undergraduate or seminary level. 

Part of Drane 's accomplishment is the uniqueness of his approach to NT 
introduction. Unlike surveys of the NT, Drane carefully addresses matters of 
critical introduction while providing a solid overview of the contents of the 
NT. Unlike introductions to the NT, his discussion of technical questions is 
never tedious and is in language students can readily grasp. And beyond what 
surveys and introductions normally provide, Drane has summarized and 
evaluated key portions of current scholarly research on the NT, an important 
feature especially at the graduate level. Drane also incorporates relevant 
topics from the Greco-Roman-Jewish culture of the first century. 


A selection of the topics covered by Drane will indicate his commitment 
to facing the issues: Was John [the Baptist] a member of the commune at 
Qumran? Did the Jews condemn Jesus? Why do the [Gospel] accounts differ? 
Fact and faith about the resurrection; Did Jesus intend to found the church? 
Identifying the authentic words of Jesus; Paul and the mystery religions; 
Did Paul write 2 Thessalonians? Did Paul really believe in freedom? The 
'communism' of the early Jerusalem church; Who wrote 1 Peter? The 

Though Drane can be praised for his thoroughness, an instructor will 
find some topics that need to be supplemented in the classroom, depending 
on the level of the course; Xoyoc, in John 1, redaction criticism, canon 
criticism, and textual criticism are treated briefly by Drane but will probably 
deserve a more thorough treatment. On the other hand, the instructor will 
discover that provocative and productive discussions will be stimulated by 
reading what Drane does include. 

Introducing the New Testament is also helpful as a demonstration of a 
defense of an evangelical view of Scripture. Not intimidated by difficult 
problems or by the most serious challenges to the NT, Drane interacts 
dispassionately with historical and theological questions about the NT: his 
open discussion of the historicity of the gospels, the virgin birth, and the 
distinction between what Jesus did and how the gospel writers interpreted 
what he did may leave some believers feeling uneasy. Yet Drane's defense is 
intelligent and his closure is always well within the evangelical position 
(Pauline authorship for Ephesians and the Pastoral Epistles, for example, is 
defended by Drane). Though recognizing the place for presuppositions 
(p. 58), Drane carefully avoids falling back on his presuppositions until all 
angles of logical and rational evidence are addressed. He commendably 
refuses to resort to simplistic solutions for sometimes troubling questions. 

A number of minor criticisms of Drane's book — e.g., quoting Josephus's 
statement about Jesus, "he was the Messiah," and not questioning the 
authenticity of the statement (p. 77, but cf. p. 138) — does not negate the 
significant value of this NT introduction. For most purposes, Drane's Intro- 
ducing the New Testament should replace NT surveys, and though it cannot 
replace Guthrie's New Testament Introduction, it may relegate it to use as a 
reference volume. 

D. Brent Sandy 
Grace Theological Seminary 

The Evidence for Jesus, by R. T. France. Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1986. 
Pp. 192. $6.95. Paper. 

In this book R. T. France, Professor of Biblical Studies at London Bible 
College, has rendered a service to all serious students of NT scholarship. This 
work originated partly in response to a British Broadcasting Corporation 
television series entitled Jesus — the Evidence, which tried to reconstruct a 
picture of the "historical Jesus" while dismissing the value of the NT writings 
as reliable primary documents. France focuses the reader's attention chiefly 


on the nature of the evidence with which historians must deal as they 
investigate the origins of Christianity. This includes both NT and extra- 
biblical literature, to which the author has given equal attention. 

In appraising the significance of non-Christian sources, France is careful 
not to claim too much for such documents. Where there are doubts about 
alleged references to Jesus (due to textual uncertainties in the manuscripts, 
for example), he shows appropriate caution. He demonstrates both a keen 
awareness of the problems involved and an extensive knowledge of the usage 
to which the documents have been put by scholars across the centuries. 

The author affirms complete confidence in the historicity of Jesus and in 
the reliability of the NT documents as valid historical evidence. The image of 
Jesus portrayed in this work is clearly that of the God-man worshiped by 
Christians since NT times. In some ways The Evidence of Jesus is one erudite 
scholar's testimony of faith. 

France is at his best in exposing the logical and methodological flaws in 
the arguments of those who have attacked the NT and either denied the 
historicity of Jesus or at least contended that little can be known about him. 
After dealing at length with the problems that pertain to the transmission of 
the NT, France concludes, "The student of the history of Jesus is, from the 
point of view of textual criticism, on vastly safer ground than the student of 
the life of Julius Caesar or indeed of any other figure of ancient history" (p. 

The Evidence for Jesus will be useful primarily to those who have 
previous acquaintance with the subject. The style of writing is rather techni- 
cal, and France's habitual use of long parenthetical expressions makes it 
difficult reading in places. It is, nevertheless, a noteworthy and helpful book. 

James Edward McGoldrick 
Cedarville College 

New Testament Commentary: Exposition of the Epistle of James and the 
Epistles of John, by Simon J. Kistemaker. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1986. 
Pp. 425. $18.95. Cloth. 

The epistles of James and John have been receiving considerable atten- 
tion from commentators over the past several years, yet these epistles, rather 
neglected until recently, need to be brought back into the mainstream of 
evangelical thought, not only for their theological contribution (which is 
often minimized), but also for their profound ethical significance. In this 
work, Kistemaker, Professor of NT at Reformed Theological Seminary, adds 
a further volume to the series begun by the late William Hendriksen of Calvin 
Seminary. Kistemaker's first contribution as Hendriksen's successor was his 
exposition of Hebrews in 1984. According to the publisher, the series is 
designed to strike "a delicate balance between scholarly and practical con- 
cerns, between exegetical and homiletical material." The exposition, based 
upon the NIV, is thus intended for general use in the preparation of sermons 
and Bible lessons. 


In his twenty page introduction, Kistemaker argues that the Lord's half- 
brother was the author and that he wrote from Israel in the middle of the 
fifth decade of the first century. The work is not a sermon but an epistle, and 
it evidences progress and development. The recipients are assumed to be 
Greek-speaking Jewish Christians who lived in Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Syria. 

Kistemaker's conclusions on James are generally within the mainstream 
of conservative opinion. The "spirit" in 4:5 is the human spirit, not the Holy 
Spirit. The prohibition against oath-taking in 5:12 is not absolute; carelessly 
using an oath is what is condemned. Yet he sometimes differs from the 
majority view. The rich man in 1:9-1 1 is not a Christian. The scripture being 
fulfilled in 2:23 (Gen 15:6) refers to the entire life of Abraham, not merely the 
Moriah experience of 2:21 . 

At times Kistemaker appears inconsistent, or at least unclear. In his 
discussion of faith and works in 2:14-26, in opposition to most recent 
scholarship, he holds that all uses of "faith" in this section refer not to 
intellectual assent but to true saving faith — a faith that is "always alive and 
expresses itself in deeds." Yet he states that one cannot rely on faith alone, 
for "faith divorced from deeds does not justify a person." His discussion of 
the anointing with oil in 5:13-15 is likewise unclear, and he does not resolve 
the matter of whether or not the oil should be used today. 

There are thirty-two pages of introduction to 1-3 John. Kistemaker 
favors a common author for the Johannine epistles — John the son of Zebedee 
(although he nowhere states this position directly in 1 1 pages of discussion). 
He considers the letters to have been written around a.d. 90-95 from Ephesus, 
primarily to Gentile Christians in Asia Minor. The false teaching addressed is 
an incipient Gnosticism, most likely of a Cerinthian rather than a Docetic 

With regard to 1 John 1:9, Kistemaker does not directly raise the issue of 
whether the confession of sins pertains to the unbeliever's conversion — a 
debate raging fairly strongly in some evangelical circles. His interpretation of 
the notoriously difficult question of sin in the believer (1 John 3:6, 9; 5:18) 
follows the majority position: "No one who is born of God will continue to 
sin" (3:9); i.e., remain in the grip of sin. The criticism of I. H. Marshall and 
others concerning this highly questionable stress on the present form of the 
verb is not considered. 

Some of the commentary's weaknesses are perhaps understandable in 
light of the work's quite general purpose. Many times certain leading options 
are not considered, as in his discussion of faith and works (Jas 2:14-26). 
Often a key issue is not even raised. More serious, however, is the fact that 
the burning ethical questions and implications in many passages (e.g., Jas 
5:1-6; 1 John 2:16-18) are hardly noticed. In addition, the headings and 
outline points in the introduction and exposition are often too brief to be 
helpful and are sometimes confusing and even misleading. 

Despite these limitations, the commentary will be useful to the pastor 
and Bible student needing a basic exposition, including homiletical aids, 
without technical bypaths or intrascholarly debate. Kistemaker's frequent 
addenda on Greek words, phrases, and constructions sometimes offer superb 


insights. His lack of dogmatism on debatable points is likewise commendable. 
The up-to-date footnotes reveal wide reading and are far above average in 
their usefulness for further study. The indexes of authors, scriptures, and 
extra-biblical references add to the considerable value of the work. 

Robert V. Rakestraw 
Criswell College 

Foundations of the Christian Faith: A Comprehensive and Readable The- 
ology, revised in one volume, by James Montgomery Boice. Downers Grove: 
InterVarsity, 1986. Pp. 740. $24.95. Cloth. 

This survey of theology for studious laymen appeared first in four 
volumes and has recently been reissued in this handsome form. Boice, pastor 
of Tenth Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia, has accomplished exactly 
what the subtitle claims in presenting a comprehensive and readable theology. 
One need have no previous knowledge of the technical vocabulary of dog- 
matics in order to appreciate this clear, concise, and practical treatment of 
almost all the traditional divisions of Christian doctrine. 

A convinced Calvinist, Boice took Calvin's Institutes of the Christian 
Religion as a guide in arranging his material, although he has included some 
topics that Calvin did not consider and has omitted others. Boice begins with 
a perceptive section about how man acquires the knowledge of God, and in 
the course of explaining this vital matter, he writes: 

Ask an average Christian to talk about God. After getting past the expected 
answers, you will find that his God is a little god of vacillating sentiments. He is 
a god who would like to save the world, but who cannot. He would like to 
restrain evil, but somehow he finds it beyond his power. So he has withdrawn 
into semi-retirement, being willing to give good advice in a grandfatherly sort of 
way, but for the most part he has left his children to fend for themselves in a 
dangerous environment [pp. 25-26]. 

Such pointed prose is typical of Boice's style, so readers should have no 
difficulty in grasping his arguments. 

Given Boice's efforts in defending inerrancy, it should come as no 
surprise that the inspiration and authority of the Bible receive extensive 
coverage in this book. In sixty-three succinctly written pages the author 
expounds on all of the vital aspects of this matter except one. After dealing 
helpfully with the authenticity of the Bible, principles for interpreting it 
correctly, and answers to its critics, Boice might have given at least some 
attention to the matter of canonicity, but he has not done so. This is an 
important issue, one with which laymen and pastors often need help. It is to 
be regretted that this volume offers nothing on this subject. 

The author's lucid style serves him and his readers well in all areas of 
doctrine. This reviewer found the treatment of sin and salvation especially 
helpful, although the section dealing with the person and work of Christ 
would be difficult to improve. New believers and experienced students of 


theology alike should find these sections enriching and the entire work a 
useful handbook to which they might refer for enlightenment on most doc- 
trinal issues. 

There is, however, one matter that gives cause for concern. Boice affirms 
that the Word of God and the Spirit of God are not to be detached from each 
other, yet he believes that the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit in the NT 
are valid for today. As he puts it, 

we dare not put God in a box on this matter, saying that he cannot give the gifts 
of healings or miracles today. . . . Notwithstanding the dangers of this gift 
[tongues], no Christian should forbid its exercise. ... To forbid it would be to 
the church's impoverishment [pp. 614 & 619, author's emphasis]. 

Boice fails to interact with the possibility that admonitions which the apostles 
directed to NT believers do not authorize Christians of the post-apostolic era 
to seek or to exercise the charismata. Boice's view here mars what is other- 
wise an excellent book. 

James Edward McGoldrick 
Cedarville College 

The Subversion of Christianity, by Jacques Ellul. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 
1986. Pp. 212. $9.95. Paper. 

Jacques Ellul asks the question: "How has it come about that the 
development of Christianity and the church has given birth to a society, a 
civilization, a culture that are completely opposite to what we read in the 
Bible, to what is indubitably the text of the law, the prophets, Jesus, and 
Paul?" (p. 3). He argues that successive historical cultures have not just 
deviated from what he considers the essence of Christianity, rather, these 
cultures have subverted Christianity. 

To make matters worse, subversion is not simply the work of a non- 
Christian world, but of a Christian church — all in the name of human 
aggrandizement. Christianity has become little more than a religion. It is a 
religion built upon a tightly woven morality that leaves no questions un- 
answered and consequently reduces Christians to spiritual infants. 

Ellul's great corpus of incisive and insightful works is well-known and 
rightly respected. Whether one ultimately agrees or disagrees with his propo- 
sitions, the reader is always challenged with intellectually exciting questions 
and is able to look upon the world with more discerning eyes. Ellul must 
stand as a giant of twentieth-century theological and sociological thought if 
for no other reason than his consistent effort to reason from his under- 
standing of both theology and sociology, not one or the other. Unlike his 
more theologically liberal peers, he does this while maintaining a tenacious 
commitment to the truth of Christ in Scripture. Although Ellul does not 
consider himself to be a thorough-going Barthian, he does draw the central 
mission of his work from Karl Barth. Like Barth, he seeks to demythologize 
the world through sociological analysis, thereby releasing revelation to its 
intended task. 


Ellul's quest for a desacralized world and church, and therefore a purer 
Christian church, is evident early in his forty books and especially in 
Subversion. Ellul distrusts the organized church, all attempts at "Christian" 
society, all power — including money, politics, materialism, moral systems, 
religious social integration, and all other forms of institutionalization. These 
perspectives develop from what Ellul calls the "social intolerability of revela- 
tion." For Ellul, Christianity must stand in radical distinction from all that 
the world is. True Christianity, pure Christianity combats enculturation and 
rejects syncretism. Ellul wishes to reestablish the Christian's ability to live in 
a spiritually-defined freedom — in a tension between world and revelation and 
able to make Spirit-informed ethical decisions. 

Ellul's strength is his weakness. He offers an articulate diagnosis of the 
world's ills, aiding Christians in their struggle not to be "of" the world. But 
he carries his fight to the point where it appears that he no longer can live 
"in" the world. He correctly asserts that history and culture influence Chris- 
tianity, but he fails to credit Christianity with sufficient power to reach 
beyond the individual positively to influence history and culture. 

In Ellul's analysis, history and culture are curiously beyond the reach of 
Christians motivated by a sense of stewardship, an understanding of the 
cultural mandate, or a desire to glorify a Creator God by "doing" as well as 
"being." Even more perplexing is Ellul's tendency to place history and culture 
beyond the reach of a sovereign God who both created and guides them. He 
does list examples of the resurgence of Christian truth and of returns to 
biblical authenticity. But they are tentative and underdeveloped. It is not, 
therefore, too much of an exaggeration, borrowing from H. Richard Nie- 
buhr's 1951 Christ and Culture, to classify Ellul's stance as "Christ Against 
Culture." Ellul understates God's role in history, the meaning God gives to 
history, and the possibility of significant cultural transformation. 

Reservations aside, this book provides a needed critique. It should be 
read by all who wish to develop their own intellectual tools for cultural 

Rex M. Rogers 
Cedarville College 

Election and Predestination, by Paul K. Jewett. Foreword by Vernon 
Grounds. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1985. Pp. xii + 147. $8.95. Paper. 

The subject of election and predestination has been a source for debate 
since the early church. The believing community has not been satisfied to opt 
for Augustine or Pelagius, Luther or Erasmus, Calvin or Arminius or the 
numerous moderating positions that have been developed over the centuries. 
Jewett's contribution will not bring a final answer to the subject either, but 
it will clarify the issues for contemporary readers. The treatment is well 
balanced, irenic, and very readable. Jewett is honest in identifying his 
commitment to the Augustinian-Calvinist side of the debate from the begin- 
ning. This approach is balanced by Grounds' foreword which treats the 
subject from the semi-Arminian side of the question. 


Jewett's work begins with a useful survey of the historical material in 
which he carefully traces the various positions and the setting in which the 
debates took place. He sees more continuity than discontinuity in the Re- 
formed tradition than has been seen by recent scholars (contra R. T. Kendall, 
Calvin and English Calvinism to 1649, Oxford, 1980). All readers will find 
helpful material in this section. His treatment of 20th century theology is 
especially informative. The discussion of Barth's position on election is per- 
haps the finest analysis on the subject anywhere. 

The next section of the book deals with the exegetical questions related 
to election and predestination. Jewett moves easily from historical concerns 
to biblical exegesis. Though his covenant theology is readily apparent as he 
traces the covenant people of God from the descendants of Abraham through 
the NT community, whether Jew or Gentile, the exposition of God's cove- 
nant faithfulness is especially helpful. 

Jewett tackles the tough questions relating to individual or corporate 
election and opts for individual election as the biblical teaching on this 
difficult question. He rightly refutes Karl Barth's unscriptural corporate con- 
cept of election, which leads to universalism. He wrestles with the decrees 
of God and helps the reader work through the difference between supra- 
lapsarianism and infralapsarianism, noting the impressive logic of supralap- 
sarianism, but concluding that such a position has clear ethical problems. 
Jewett argues for a balanced infralapsarianism that affirms unconditional 
election and rejects unconditional reprobation. 

Jewett's work is worthy of a wide readership by those who agree and 
disagree with him. For those wrestling with this issue, Jewett will prove to be 
profitable reading. He has helped the believing community reaffirm that 
salvation is of God and is found only in the Lord Jesus Christ. 

David S. Dockery 
Criswell College 

Chosen for Life: An Introductory Guide to the Doctrine of Divine Election, 
C. Samuel Storms. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1987. Pp. 142. $6.95. Paper. 

Storms's objective is delineated in his preface: "To write simply, but not 
simplistically" on the doctrine of unconditional election (p. 10). He targets 
the people in the pew as his primary audience. The preface also contains an 
open invitation to evaluate how successfully he has accomplished his objective. 

The author is generally successful at making this difficult doctrinal issue 
intelligible for a general Christian readership. He is most successful in chaps. 
1-4. Therein he replaces abstruse theological verbiage with vivid descriptions, 
word-pictures, parallelisms, and illustrations. The result is not only doctrinal 
clarity for the layman but also a pedagogical model for the theologian. 
Consequently, this volume is profitable for all students of the Word. 

Storms's greatest problem arises when he compromises his commitment 
to the aforementioned objective by becoming quasi-technical. For example, 
some of his discussions of "relevant texts" and objections (cf. chaps. 7-9, 11) 


are not exegetically satisfying. His theological presuppositions (many of 
which I consider to be valid, but some invalid) obviously determine his 
selected textual observations. Storms's wandering from exegetical inductivity 
is most obviously illustrated in chap. 10 where he endeavors to defend the 
traditional ordo salutis of Reformed theology. Characteristically, the author 
perpetuates confusion of efficacious calling and regeneration. 

Apart from these relatively minor weaknesses, the volume draws its 
strength from a solid theology proper and a thoroughly biblical hamartiology. 
Coupling these theological assets with the author's transparent style, this 
volume is highly recommended to all. 

George Zemek 
Grace Theological Seminary 

Evangelicalism: The Coming Generation, by James Davison Hunter. Chicago: 
University of Chicago, 1987. Pp. xii + 302. $19.95. Cloth. 

It is difficult enough to define evangelicalism. Hunter, a University of 
Virginia sociologist, has compounded the difficulty by trying to anticipate the 
direction of the movement in the next generation. Nevertheless, the result is 
an intriguing and valuable work worthy of serious consideration whether or 
not one accepts all of its conclusions. 

The basis of the presentation is a survey taken by students at nine 
colleges and seven theological seminaries in 1982. Additional data was 
gathered from other groups later. The nine colleges represented are: Wheaton, 
Gordon, Westmont, Bethel, Houghton, Messiah, George Fox, Seattle-Pacific 
University, and Taylor University. The seven seminaries are: Fuller, Conser- 
vative Baptist, Asbury, Talbot, Westminster, Gordon-Conwell, and Wheaton 
Graduate School. 

The survey draws opinions from students on theological, social and 
political subjects. The results have been carefully considered and compared 
with similar studies done previously and with Hunter's understanding of 
traditional evangelicalism. The author concludes that there is a definite left- 
ward movement in the areas addressed. The report of the data along with the 
interpretations by Hunter give much food for thought, especially for those in 
Christian higher education. Such education, it seems, is a threat to traditional 
evangelical thinking — a greater threat than secular education because many 
learn to protect themselves in the secular institution while lowering the guard 
in the Christian school (pp. 176-78). Hunter writes: "Among Protestant 
colleges, the more serious a commitment to the task of higher education, the 
more prevalent the liberalization and secularization tendencies" (p. 177). 

Some of the author's conclusions are thought-provoking. While he 
believes that it is inappropriate to say that evangelical theology is becoming 
more liberal, "evidence is suggestive of a common trend, one in which the 
theological tradition is conforming in its own unique way to the cognitive and 
normative assumptions of modern culture. ..." (p. 46). This point is an 
important one in Hunter's consideration, for he concludes that evangelicalism 


is heavily influenced by its cultural setting. With regard to theology, he 
observes that biblical inerrancy is not an issue for the coming generation of 
evangelicals (p. 25). The data also reveals that almost one-third of the 
students believe that the only way of reaching heaven "is through personal 
faith in Jesus Christ except for those who have not had the opportunity to 
hear of Jesus Christ" (p. 36). A great interest in social issues is apparent 
(pp. 43-46). Many habits formally considered objectionable among evan- 
gelicals are not viewed in such strongly negative ways today, leading Hunter 
to write: "The traditional meaning of worldliness has indeed lost its relevance 
for the coming generation of evangelicals" (p. 63). 

An excursus on the topic of the "traditional family" in America is most 
interesting in light of the call on the part of many evangelicals for a return to 
that standard. Hunter's discussion exposes an evangelical miscue: the American 
traditional family is not equivalent to the biblical model for family. 

Several problems, however, may skew Hunter's conclusions. First, the 
institutions chosen may or may not reflect the coming generation of evan- 
gelicals accurately. Significant institutions were chosen for the poll, but no 
southern college or seminary is included, though large and significant evan- 
gelical institutions exist there. Second, the poll reflects the attitudes of the 
students of 1982 and may be significant for that group but not reflective of 
positions of later classes. Third, a question can be raised with regard to the 
comparison of attitudes of students with the conservative evangelical stan- 
dard used as a measure. Some of the students surveyed were at schools 
known for a progressive rather than a traditional evangelicalism. Fourth, the 
possibility exists that students might gravitate toward a more conservative 
stance upon graduation. These reservations do not refute Hunter's con- 
clusions but simply raise concerns that need to be considered before accepting 
them as appropriate. 

Hunter's work is a significant contribution to the study of evangelicalism 
and should serve as a resource for evangelical institutions of higher education 
as they prepare students to live effectively in the present world while 
dedicated to biblical faith and practice. 

Ronald T. Clutter 
Grace Theological Seminary 

On Capital Punishment, by William Baker. Originally published Worthy of 
Death, 1973. Reprint ed. Chicago: Moody Press, 1985. Pp. 166. $5.95. Paper. 

Baker begins this compelling argument for capital punishment with an 
interesting historical survey of capital punishment. The main thrust of his 
analysis is that God demands capital punishment because it is just: "Whoso- 
ever sheds man's blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of 
God He made man" (Gen 9:6). Baker bolsters his case by citing support for 
capital punishment from early Christian writers and theological leaders such 
as Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther and John Calvin. Calvin said, "Those, 
therefore, who consider that it is wrong to shed the blood of the guilty are 


contending against God" (p. 14). Baker also notes that, until Holland re- 
pealed it in 1870, capital punishment was the standard punishment for willful 
murder in every nation of the world. Others followed suit through the years, 
until in 1972, the United States Supreme Court handed down Furman vs. 
Georgia, striking down the States' existing capital punishment laws and 
mandating them to rewrite them. 

Thirty-eight states now have laws which mandate the execution of first 
degree murderers. There are over 1,200 convicted murderers on "Death Row" 
across the nation, but only a handful of actual executions are performed each 
year because frequent and lengthy appeals have effectively eviscerated the 

Baker briefly observes that much of the debate on this topic today is on 
humanistic grounds, ignoring Biblical mandates. Many fail to see capital 
punishment as due process of law and ignore the scriptural call for the death 
sentence as just punishment for willfully killing one created in the image of 
God. But, of course, Baker stresses that this argument will only carry weight 
with those who accept the authority of the Bible. 

Baker makes a distinct contribution to the literature available in this 
field in his analysis of the data regarding the deterrent effect of capital 
punishment. Statistically, capital punishment seems to deter murder: murders 
per 100,000 population in 1966 were 5.6 per year, which increased steadily 
since, to between 9 and 10 per 100,000 today. Thus the murder rate has 
doubled since capital punishment was abolished. 

But Baker goes beyond statistical justification for the death sentence: he 
also presents scripture where God affirms that punishment will deter others in 
the future from committing the same crime, citing Deut 19:15-21, "Thus you 
shall purge the evil from among you . . . and the rest will hear and be afraid, 
and will never again do such an evil thing among you." A prosecuting 
attorney would find much material here which could be quite persuasive with 
a jury in a capital crime case. The basic question which a prosecutor must 
frequently face is whether a jury member's vote for conviction will result in a 
death sentence. Many on a jury can have an aversion to capital punishment 
(even though on routine examination of jury members this issue is always 
surfaced). But the prosecutor can overcome this by arguing that it is just that 
a man's blood be shed if he has shed another's. Biblical references are 
frequently used by prosecutors in this regard, and Baker has made available a 
reasoned and learned rationale for believing and taking God at His word. 

Baker's best argument is the one which he most emphasizes — that God 
prescribed capital punishment not just because it is a deterrent to future 
murders, but mainly because it is an eminently just punishment for one who 
kills another whom God made in His image. A serious reader will find that 
the book satisfies, therefore, on two levels: it provides the facts and statistics 
to support capital punishment, and it deals persuasively with the deeper 
theological questions which arise when one considers taking another's life for 
his crime. 

John R. Price 
Indianapolis, Indiana 


Church, Ministry, and Sacraments in the New Testament, by C. K. Barrett. 
Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1985. Pp. 110. $6.95. Paper. 

Barrett's brief and nontechnical volume contains his Didsbury Lectures 
originally delivered at British Isles Nazarene College in 1983. He writes as a 
Methodist who has opposed the union of Methodism with Anglicanism 
because of his convictions about the New Testament theology of the Church. 
Fully aware of the perils of such a sketchy overview of the topic, he admits 
that it might be handled better in forty-four lectures than in four (p. 8)! 

But four lectures is all the book contains. The first discusses the relation- 
ship between Jesus and the church, advancing the paradoxical thesis that "the 
church is at the same time central and peripheral" in the New Testament 
(pp. 9, 26). Ministry as the topic of -the second chapter is also developed 
along the lines of a paradox, namely that everyone in the body is equal but its 
gifted leaders are "more equal" (p. 37). Such leaders are to be accepted by the 
church but not allowed to dominate it (p. 53). The viability of sacraments and 
sacramental theology is handled in chapter three. Once again the "paradox of 
centrality and peripherality" (p. 75) is utilized to expound Barrett's under- 
standing. The final chapter examines the developing church, including the 
question of Friihkatholizismus (early Catholicism) in the Pastoral Epistles and 
significant passages in the post-apostolic fathers. Barrett asks in his con- 
clusion whether the church in any age has taken the New Testament seriously 
enough (p. 101). He believes that far too seldom does the church balance its 
peripherality against its centrality. The book also includes brief indexes of 
New Testament passages, early Christian literature, and names and subjects. 

Barrett's treatment of the crucial themes mentioned above is successful. 
His overviews avoid being simplistic because they are distilled from a lifetime 
of scholarship. Whether one agrees with all his exegetical and theological 
conclusions, one must appreciate the manner in which he moves through the 
material and deals with the major issues. When Barrett does pause for a bit of 
deeper exegesis, as on pp. 15-18 where he discusses Matt 16:17-18, the 
results are stimulating. It is surprising, however, that Barrett has elevated 
Markan priority to an assured fact, not a matter of hypothesis (p. 72). 
Conservatives will note that the Pastoral Epistles are viewed as deutero- 
Pauline (pp. 31, 82), that the historicity of the gospels is not always upheld 
(pp. 9, 21, yet cf. pp. 26-27), and that the Elder of 2-3 John is handled rather 
unflatteringly (pp. 46-47). Barrett's argument from silence that not all first 
century converts were baptized is unconvincing (p. 60). Finally, the non- 
technical style of the book is hampered at times by the unnecessary inclusion 
of transliterated Hebrew and Greek words and unexplained English technical 
terms (e.g., eleemosynary, p. 34). 

To conclude, Barrett's volume makes for provocative reading. He paints 
the New Testament picture of the church with broad and rapid strokes. While 
readers might desire a more extensive treatment, there is much value in 
Barrett's masterful overview of crucial themes. His view of these themes will 
offer little comfort to those with high church convictions of apostolic suc- 
cession and ex opere operatum sacraments. His central thesis of simultaneous 
centrality and peripherality may cross over the boundary of paradox into the 


realm of contradiction. However, his concluding call for the Church to take 
the New Testament seriously (p. 101) should be heeded by every Christian 

David L. Turner 
Grand Rapids Baptist Seminary 

A Practical Theology of Spirituality, by Lawrence O. Richards. Grand 
Rapids: Zondervan, 1987. Pp. 253. $18.95. Cloth. 

What is spirituality? What does it mean to be spiritual? What does it 
mean to do spiritual acts. Is spirituality primarily being or doing, or is it a 
combination of the two? However one may word the question, there is no 
consensus about spirituality among evangelicals. The 1987 annual meeting of 
the Evangelical Theological Society was devoted to the theme of spirituality 
and the diversity of discussion illustrated the lack of one answer to the 
question, or even one question! Richards has given us his perspective on the 
subject and wisely calls his work a theology rather than the theology of 

Richards's goal is to clarify the elusive concept of "spiritual" and present 
a model for pursuing spirituality (p. vii). The author asserts that "spirituality 
is living a human life in union with God" (p. 67). Richards moves skillfully 
toward this definition, by establishing that Jesus is the only legitimate model 
for spirituality and then identifying prominent "aspects" of spirituality in 
Jesus' life. From this base he suggests that the believer needs to conform to 
Jesus' behavior and thus be spiritual. Richards establishes this rationale by 
arguing that all models of spirituality except Jesus have failed, Jesus is the 
only person who has lived life in union with God, therefore, spirituality is 
living life in union with God like Jesus did. 

After establishing this rationale, Richards devotes the majority of his 
book to elucidating his view of human life as Jesus lived it and asserting that 
spirituality is living life like Jesus lived it (pp. 75-248). On the one hand, 
Richards has written a creative and well organized book, but on the other 
hand, it is merely a new variation on a well-worn theme in the literature: live 
like Jesus. His success in answering the question "What is spirituality?" is less 
than satisfying. A major flaw of the book, in spite of Richards's compelling 
devotional argument about living like Jesus, is that an exegetical base is not 
established to answer the question of the book. 

Three avenues are available for proposing a theological model: the direct 
statements of scripture, the implied teaching of scripture, and creative models 
devised from scripture but not necessarily intended by a passage or group of 
texts. Richards's work primarily falls within the last category. Consequently, 
it inadequately defines what biblical spirituality is. 

A glaring omission in Richards's endeavor to develop a biblical view of 
spirituality is the absence of a discussion of the four passages in the New 
Testament which use the adjective "spiritual" to describe a person as spiritual 
(1 Cor 2:15; 3:1; 14:37; and Gal 6:1). While the verses are cited, they are not 


probed for their contribution to the establishment of a biblical definition of 
spirituality. Also, there is no overview of how this term is used in its other 
occurrences. Consequently, while Richards has stimulated analysis of what it 
means to be Christian, he unfortunately does not provide lines of exegetical 
evidence to define "spiritual" as the term is used in scripture. This should be 
the starting point. 

When one accepts this book for what it is — a discussion of how Jesus 
lived and how we should imitate Him — there are many positive things that 
can be said about it. The author leads the reader along so that his points are 
easily grasped and the accumulation of his rationale is clearly communicated. 
It is also pedagogically useful. Each chapter is organized in a similar manner 
and concludes with a "Probe" section where the author has given some 
creative ways to think through the content of the chapter. 

Richards's volume has made a contribution to the devotional literature 
on Christian living. It will not, however, provide the scholar or advanced 
student with an exegetically supported answer to the question, "What is 

Gary T. Meadors 
Grace Theological Seminary 

Books Reviewed 


Beitzel, Barry J., The Moody Atlas of Bible Lands (Michael A. Grisanti) ... 141 
DeVries, Simon J., / Kings, and Hobbs, T. R., 2 Kings (Richard Patterson) ... 142 
Kaiser, Walter C, Jr., Toward Rediscovering the Old Testament (Richard E. 
Averbeck) 145 


Drane, John, Introducing the New Testament (D. Brent Sandy) 147 

France, R. T., The Evidence for Jesus (James Edward McGoldrick) 148 

Kistemaker, Simon J., New Testament Commentary: Exposition of the Epistle 

of James and the Epistles of John (Robert V. Rakestraw) 149 


Boice, James Montgomery, Foundations of the Christian Faith (James Edward 

McGoldrick) 151 

Ellul, Jacques, The Subversion of Christianity (Rex M. Rogers) 152 

Jewett, Paul K., Election and Predestination (David S. Dockery) 153 

Storms, C. Samuel, Chosen for Life: An Introductory Guide to the Doctrine of 

Divine Election (George J. Zemek) 1 54 


Hunter, James Davison, Evangelicalism: The Coming Generation (Ronald T. 
Clutter) 155 


Baker, William, On Capital Punishment (John R. Price) 156 

Barrett, C. K., Church, Ministry, and Sacraments in the New Testament 

(David L. Turner) 158 

Richard, Lawrence O., A Practical Theology of Spirituality (Gary T. 

Meadors) 159 



Volume 9 No 2 Fall 1988 

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ISSN 0198-666X. Copyright © 1989 Grace Theological Seminary. All rights reserved. 



Volume 9 No 2 Fall 1988 


The Literary Unity of I Thessalonians 4:13-5:11 163 


Structural Analysis of Jesus' Narrative Parables: A Conserva- 
tive Approach 191 


A Background History of Grace Theological Seminary 205 


Relative Clauses in the Greek New Testament: A Statistical 
Study 233 


Polity and the Elder Issue 257 


The Test of the New Testament: A Review Article 279 


Book Reviews (see inside back cover) 287 


James L. Boyer 

Grace Theological Seminary, Winona Lake, IN 46590 

Ronald T. Clutter 

Grace Theological Seminary, Winona Lake, IN 46590 

Christian R. Davis 

Liberty University, Lynchburg, VA 24506 

Rodney J. Decker 

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Tracy L. Howard 

131 Fletcher, Denham Springs, LA 70726 

Daniel B. Wallace 

Dallas Theological Seminary, Dallas, TX 75204 


It has not been the policy of the Grace Theological Journal to 
publish editorial comment but an exception was thought necessary at 
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Several fine men have served GTJ well in its ten years, but none 
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filled but he cannot be replaced. 

Grace TheologicalJournal 9.2 (1988) 163-190 

1 THESSALONIANS 4:13-5:11 

Tracy L. Howard 

1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11 has been a fertile source of debate 
among both pre- and posttribulational advocates. Yet often wrong 
assumptions are made by the exegete when he/she approaches this 
important eschatological text of Paul. One of those assumptions is 
that 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and 5:1-11 describe two entirely differ- 
ent eschatological events. Coupled with this is the assumption that 
Paul describes both events through a diachronic time scheme. How- 
ever, Paul in no way attempts to differentiate two events in this 
passage. Instead, Paul's eschatological presentation is very general or 
even "aoristic" in focus. This conclusion is drawn in some measure 
from a clear literary unity that characterizes the passage. 


First Thessalonians 4:13-5:11 is one of the longest and earliest 
eschatological sections in the Pauline corpus. The passage con- 
tains a discussion of both the Parousia of Jesus and the Day of the 
Lord couched in the imagery of apocalyptic contemporary to the first 
century. The descriptions of these apocalyptic events along with their 
apparent imminent nature has raised numerous theological questions. 
Discussions related to Paul's view of imminency, his concept of 
eschatological development, and his use of apocalyptic imagery fill 
the literature. Another question which immediately emerges from an 
analysis of this text is whether the events described in 4:13-18 and 
5:1-1 1 are to be viewed as distinct or in some sense equivalent. D. G. 
Bradley proposed that 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and 5:1-11 were indi- 
vidual examples of the literary form topos} According to Bradley, 
"the distinctive characteristic of the topos is that it is composed of 

D. G. Bradley, "The Topos as a Form in the Pauline Paraenesis," JBL 72 (1953) 


more than one sentence dealing with the same subject." Further- 
more, the topos is an independent form which is self-contained and 
has a loose or even arbitrary connection with the context. 3 Hence 
both 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and 5:1-11, according to Bradley, deal 
with two similar though quite different situations. G. Friedrich has 
raised the problem of the authenticity of 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11. He 
sees such incongruity between 5:1-1 1 and the preceding passage, 4:13- 
18, that he concludes that 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 is inauthentic, a 
non-Pauline interpolation. Other such as Harnisch and Schmithals, 6 
though accepting a Pauline authorship, argue that Paul wrote 1 Thes- 
salonians 5:1-1 1 at a later date when the community became agitated 
by gnostics. In the context of the pretribulational and posttribulational 
rapture debate, a distinction between the two texts is sometimes 
suggested. For example, Walvoord, a pretribulationist, writes: 

The fact that the rapture is mentioned first in chapter 4 before the day 
of the Lord is presented in chapter 5 is significant. The important 
subject was the rapture, including the resurrection of the dead in Christ 
and the translation of living believers. The rapture is not introduced as 
a phase of the day of the Lord and seems to be distinguished from 
it. . . . Accordingly, it is clear that 1 Thessalonians 5 is not talking 
specifically about the rapture, but about another truth. (Italics added.) 

2 Ibid„ 240-43. 

3 Criticism has been offered on specific points of Bradley's thesis. V. P. Furnish 
says that Bradley's attempt to show this is not successful and adds: "There are few 
passages in the Pauline letters which cannot be related in some significant way to 
particular problems and needs the apostle is confronting" (The Love Command in the 
New Testament [Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1972], 90). More recently others have 
likewise criticized Bradley's view. Terence Y. Mullins narrows Bradley's definition by 
showing that the topos form has three essential elements: injunction, reason, and 
discussion ("Topos as a NT Form," JBL 99 [1980] 541-47); John C. Brunt has argued 
additionally that appeal to the topos form to show that advice is not directed to a 
specific situation is not valid ("More on the Topos as a New Testament Form," JBL 
104 [1985] 495-500). Brunt's criticism is important. In reference to this paper, an 
appeal to the form topos is simply not sufficient to indicate an isolated or arbitrary 
unit. Thus although 1 Thess 5:1-11 may reflect the form of topos, such does not of 
necessity argue for its isolation from 1 Thess 4:13-18 if other contextual features 
suggest otherwise. 

Gerhard Friedrich, Die Briefe an die Galater, Epheser, Philipper, Kolosser, Thes- 
salonicher und Philemon, NTD, vol. 8 (Gottingen: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 1976) 

Wolfgang Harnisch, Eschatologishe Existenz: Ein Exegetischer Beit rag zum 
Sachanliegen von 1. Thessalonischer 4:13-5:11, FRLANT, vol. 110 (Gottingen: Van- 
denhoeck and Ruprecht, 1973) 77-82. 

Walter Schmithals, The Apocalyptic Movement, trans. John E. Steely (Nashville: 
Abingdon Press, 1975) 160-67. 

John F. Walvoord, The Blessed Hope and the Tribulation: A Biblical and 
Historical Study of Posttibulationism (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 


This feeling of disparity between 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and 
5:1-11 raises the need for a thorough evaluation of the entire section 
in order to see whether such disparity is real or only apparent. Is 
there a disjunction between the two texts or does 1 Thessalonians 
4:13-5:11 constitute literary as well as theological unity? In order to 
evaluate the literary and theological unity of the entire pericope, 
several questions must be addressed: 

1. Does Paul's purpose change from 4:13-18 to 5:1-11, or does 
it remain the same throughout the pericope. In other words, 
does Paul maintain a parenetic purpose or shift his purpose at 

2. Is the subject matter the same in 4:13-18 and 5:1-11? Related 
to this question is the significance of irspi 5s in 5:1. Does this 
phrase constitute a major break in Paul's subject matter? If so, 
does this disjunction automatically suggest the disparity that 
many attempt to support? 

3. Are there any stylistic parallels between 4:13-18 and 5:1-11 
that would suggest literary unity throughout both passages, 
namely, the repetition of a pre-Pauline credal formula or 
perhaps an inclusion 

4. Is there internal consistency throughout 4:13-5:11? If it could 
be shown that 4:13-5:11 (or at least a major portion of it) is 
closely parallel in structure and arrangement to another uni- 
fied pericope in the New Testament, this would suggest the 
essential unity of 4:13-5:11 rather than a disjunction at 5:1. 

5. Is there any evidence of theological change from 4:13-18 to 
5:1-11, namely, is there any distinction between 7iapouaia, 
"Parousia" and f|uipa Kupiou, "Day of the Lord?" If not, why 
does Paul change his terminology to describe the same event? 
Furthermore, if there is no distinction, what then is the nature 
of Pauline eschatology as presented in 4:13-5:1 1? 

The purpose of this study is to address these questions and to set 
forth reasons that support the literary unity of 1 Thessalonians 4:13— 
5:11. Limitation of space forbids a detailed exegetical analysis of the 
entire pericope. Thus while it is necessary to present an exegetical 

1976) 115; see also Paul D. Feinberg, "A Response to 'The Case for the Posttribulation 
Rapture Position' by Douglas J. Moo," in The Rapture: Pre-, Mid-, or Post-Tribula- 
tional?, ed. Richard R. Reiter (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984) 226. 
Feinberg argues that Paul clearly intends some kind of distinction between 1 Thess 
4:13-18 and 5:1-11. 


analysis of some texts, elsewhere the discussion will be a presentation 
of the results of the exegetical work done in the passage. 

The phrase literary unity is understood to mean that an author, 
in this case Paul, conveys the same subject matter with a unified 
purpose throughout a given text without a major disjunction in either 
subject matter or purpose. It will be proposed that Paul deliberately 
employs certain literary devices to accomplish the task of communi- 
cating a unified message. There are several features which suggest that 
1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11 is to be regarded as one unified pericope. 


Both 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and 5:1-11 are parenetic in pur- 
pose. In 1 Thessalonians 4:1-5:22, Paul amplifies the instruction he 
gave while at Thessalonica in light of information he received from 
Timothy. In this portion of the letter he considers their life and faith 
in the community. For this reason, this entire section of the epistle 
has been called parenesis. However, the passage does not comprise 
one subject but several. 

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 

Paul addresses the issue of sexual purity (4:3-8) followed by 
an exhortation to love one another (4:9-12). He then shifts his fo- 
cus to a lengthy eschatological discourse which constitutes the heart 
of his parenesis. Two major issues comprise this discussion. The first 
is the relation of the dead to the Parousia (4:13-18), and the second is 
the ethical responsibility of those alive in view of the coming Day of 
the Lord (5:1-11). The purpose of Paul's discussion in 1 Thessa- 
lonians 4:13-5:11 is not primarily theological but eschatological issues 
are addressed in view of ethical concerns. Paul's purpose in 4:13-18 is 
stated explicitly in verse 13. For that reason, a more detailed exami- 
nation of verse 13 is appropriate in order to clarify his parenetic 

Paul introduces a transition in thought which is indicated by the 
particle 5e as well as the phrase ou GsXouev 5s uuac, dyvosiv dSsXcpoi, 
"now we do not desire you to be ignorant brethren." This phrase is 
used elsewhere by Paul to introduce a new topic. 10 Specifically, Paul 

8 Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible: Supplementary Volume, s.v. "Parenesis," by 
D. Schroeder, 643. Schroeder defines parenesis as a "technical term to refer to all 
general exhortations of an ethical nature." 

9 Edgar Krentz, "1 Thess.: A Document of Roman Hellenism" (unpublished paper 
presented to the Thessalonians Seminar, National Meeting of the Society of Biblical 
Literature, December 1979) 15. 

10 Cf. 2 Cor 1:8; Rom 1:13; 11:25; 1 Cor 10:1; 12:1. 


desires these believers not to be ignorant "regarding those who have 
fallen asleep," Tispi tcov kskoiut|L!£vcov. From the use of 7repi 12 
following dyvoetv, it is evident that the problem these believers faced 
centered on the fortune of the faithful departed (tcov K£Koiur|U8vcov). 13 
Thus it is likely that the cause of their sorrow was not disappointment 
over the nonarrival of the Parousia, as Best suggests, but rather 
anxiety over the issue of whether the Christian dead would suffer a 
disadvantage at the Parousia. 15 The question still remains why Paul 

"The perfect K8K0iur||ieva)v has better geographical distribution (DFG9D?) than 
the present Koiuwuevcov (NAB 33.81) and is preferred. There is little difference in 
meaning in view of Paul's overall purpose. The perfect would reflect the present state of 
those who had already died whereas the present would suggest a continual process 
during which various ones died at different times. 

"nepi with the genitive denotes the object or person to which the action refers or 
relates; see BAGD, 644. 

1 Koiudco was used literally in both non-biblical and biblical Greek to denote the 
activity of sleeping (Homer, Odyssey, 12.372; [LXX] Gen 19:14; 28:11; 1 Esdr 3:3; Tob 
2:9; 1 Mace 11:6; Matt 28:13; Luke 22:45; John 11:12; Acts 12:6). However, koiu&cd 
was also used metaphorically in antiquity in the sense of death (Homer, Illiad 11:241; 
[LXX] 3 Kgs 2:10 [the idiom "to sleep with one's fathers" occurs 33 times in the [LXX]; 
cf. 2 Mace 12:42-45; in this text the phrase "fallen asleep in godliness" closely resem- 
bles the use found in 1 Thess 4:13). In the New Testament, fourteen out of eighteen 
occurrences of Koiudco are references to death, and interestingly, all of the Pauline uses 
are in this category (1 Cor 7:39; 11:30; 15:6, 18, 20, 51; 1 Thess 4:13, 14, 15 [of the 9 
occurrences in Paul, 7 appear in two major eschatological texts, 1 Cor 15 and 1 Thess 
4]). The use of sleep for death is probably a euphemism (see Ernest Best, A Com- 
mentary on the First and Second Epistles to the Thessalonians [New York: Harper and 
Row, 1972] 185; F. F. Bruce, / and 2 Thessalonians, WBC [Waco, TX: Word Books, 
1982] 95; H. A. A. Kennedy, St. Paul's Conceptions of the Last Things [London: 
Hodder and Stoughton, 1904] 247). It may be going too far to read into the work an 
implicit concept of that from which one would awaken (Bruce, 96), although it is quite 
true that the word meant this in contemporary Jewish writings (cf. 2 Esdr 7:32, "and 
the earth shall give up those who sleep in it" [NEB], is followed in 7:76 by a description 
of the joy experienced by the righteous in their habitations immediately after death and 
before they are awakened; see also I Enoch 100:51; 2 Apoc. Bar. 21:24). The problem 
with seeing an implicit idea of awaken is that the metaphor of sleep as death occurs in 
works unacquainted with a resurrection hope (R. H. Charles, Eschatology [New York: 
Schocken Books, 1963] 132, n. 1. For example, in Catullus 5:4-6 one reads, "Suns may 
set and rise again. For us, when the short light has once set, remains to be slept the 
sleep of one unbroken night."). Thus such a metaphor does not arise from the idea of a 
body left behind while the soul departs to a continued existence elsewhere or from the 
notion that the sleeping person will afterwards wake up to new life. Certainly the 
metaphor is in harmony with resurrection (Alfred Plummer, St. Paul's First Epistle to 
the Thessalonians [London: Robert Scott, 1918] 69) but it probably only suggests the 
similarity in appearance between a sleeping body and a dead body, i.e., restfulness and 
peace normally characterize both (TDNT, s.v. "Ka8eu5co," by A. Oepke, 3:433). 
Best, Thessalonians, 203. 

Bruce, Thessalonians, 95; W. D. Davies, Paul and Rabbinic Judaism (reprint ed., 
Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1980) 291; A. L. Moore, The Parousia in the New 
Testament (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1966) 108-09; Williams Neil, The Epistle of Paul to the 


would have had to deal with this issue in this particular community. 
A couple of reasons may be suggested. 

First, it is possible that this is an issue on which the Thessalonian 
Christians had not been adequately informed. 16 While with these be- 
lievers it is possible that Paul had not discussed the relation of 
survivors to the dead at the Parousia. Apparently some of the be- 
lievers had died since the time of Paul's visit and, consequently, 
questions had arisen concerning the relation of the faithful departed 
to the Parousia. 

Second, it is possible that a subtle polemic is offered against a 
contemporary teaching that advocated the advantage of those alive at 
the inauguration of the Messianic Kingdom. One of the main currents 
of eschatological thought in Judaism was that the Messianic King- 
dom would be the consummation of world history and its scene 
would be this earth, albeit an earth transformed in different ways. 
Davies says that "according to the earliest sources only those alive at 
the advent of the Messiah would be judged and could participate in 
the blessings of the Messianic Kingdom." 17 In 4 Ezra the author gives 
a vision of the Man rising from the sea; in this vision the pre- 
existent Messiah, following the annihilation of His enemies, gathers a 
multitude of his own remnant to himself. 4 Ezra 13:22-24 says: 

As for what you said about those who are left, this is the interpretation: 
He who brings the peril at that time will himself protect those who fall 
into peril, who have works and have faith in the Almighty. Understand 
therefore that those who are left are more blessed than those who have 
died. n (Italics added.) 

The suggestions of a polemic against such teaching would help to 
explain the anxiety growing out of the possibility that those who died 
did not have the same advantage as those who were alive at the 
Parousia. This might also explain why Paul uses such emphatic 

Thessalonians (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1950) 99; Beda Rigaux, Les Epitres 
Aux Thessalonioiens (Paris: Librairie Leoffre, 1956) 527. 

16 Bruce, Thessalonians, p. 95; James E. Frame, A Critical and Exegetical Com- 
mentary on the Epistles of St. Paul to the Thessalonians, ICC (Edinburgh: T. & T. 
Clark, 1912) 164; see also Willi Marxen, "Aus legung von 1 Thess 4, 13-18," ZTK 66 

Davies, Judaism, 287. 

B. M. Metzger, "The Fourth Book of Ezra: A New Translation and Introduc- 
tion," in vol. 1 of The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, ed. James H. Charlesworth 
(Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Company, 1983) 552; see also 2 Apoc. Bar. 70.1- 
71-1. It is not out of the question that such a view may have been held by scribes prior 
to a.d. 70 and that the Thessalonians had been influenced by such a view through their 
exposure to the synagogue (cf. Acts. 17:2-4). 


language as, "we who are alive and remain until the Parousia will by 
no means precede those who have died" (cf. v. 15, ou uf| (pGaaoo- 
uev). One, however, need not suppose with Schmithals that the 
community was misled by gnosticizing visitors who completely denied 
the future resurrection hope. 

The purpose of Paul's desire for these believers not to be ig- 
norant regarding those who had died is that "they might not grieve as 
those who do not have hope," i'va uf] ^imfjaGe KaGcoc; Kai oi Xouroi 
oi uf] sxovxec; 8>i7u8a. The i'va should be taken as introducing pur- 
pose rather than result. This is the only purpose statement in 4:13- 
18 and it is related to pastoral or parenetic concerns, namely, that 
these believers "might not grieve." The verb ^UTteco normally conveys 
the idea of "grief, distress, sadness, or sorrow." 22 The negative uf) 
with the present subjunctive may suggest in this context the desire for 
the cessation of an action already in progress. Those in this com- 
munity were in the process of grieving over loved ones who had died, 
apparently for fear that they might suffer disadvantage at the Parou- 
sia. Paul is thus attempting to comfort them in this grief (cf. 4:18). 

Paul further qualifies his purpose by a comparative clause intro- 
duced by KaGdx; Kai. He states that his desire is that these believers 
not grieve "as also the rest who do not have hope," KaGdx; Kai oi 
louroi oi uf] sxovtsc; eXniba. Two alternatives are possible for the 
interpretation of KaGcbc;. First, it is possible to take the comparative 
particle as introducing a comparison of manner. 23 This would mean 
that Paul did not desire this congregation to grieve in the same way 
as those who have no hope. The second possibility is to take KaGcbc; in 
an absolute sense. This would mean that Paul is telling those at 
Thessalonica not to grieve at all as do unbelievers who have no hope. 
Such an absolute sense would not exclude sorrow over the loss of a 

19 The construction ou uf) with the subjunctive cpGdacouEv here expresses emphatic 

""Walter Schmithals, Paul and the Gnostics, trans. John E. Steely (Nashville: 
Abingdon Press, 1972) 160-62. 

21 BAGD, p. 376; i'va most frequently denotes purpose rather than conceived result, 
although at times it becomes very difficult to distinguish the two. The problem is that 
the Semitic mind was reluctant to distinguish between the purpose and consequence, 
particularly in light of God's actions (cf. M. Zerwick, Biblical Greek, trans. Joseph 
Smith [Rome Scripta Pontificii Instituti Biblici, 1963], #351-52; C. F. D. Moule, An 
Idiom-Book of New Testament Greek [Cambridge: University Press, 1959] 142). 

22 Ibid., 481. 

23 Ibid., 391. 
John Eadie, A Commentary on the Greek Text of the Epistle of Paul to the 
Thessalonians (reprint ed., Minneapolis: James and Klock Christian Publishing Co., 
1977) 145-49; Frame, Thessalonians, 167; Neil, Thessalonians, 92; D. E. H. Whiteley, 
Thessalonians (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1969) 68. 


loved one, but it would preclude sorrow as far as the Parousia is 

The discussion to this point reveals Paul's parenetic purpose for 
writing 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. He is not attempting to set forth an 
isolated eschatological discourse but is addressing a very practical 
problem within the community that involved eschatological concerns. 
Paul desires to communicate a message of comfort, a message that 
promises resurrection for departed believers by virtue of their identifi- 
cation and union with Christ. This same union also provides the basis 
for the translation of those who are alive at His Parousia (cf. 4:17). 
That the hope of resurrection to be with Christ is grounded in the 
resurrection of Christ Himself 2 is made evident in verses 15-17. 
Because Christ arose from the dead, those believers who have died in 
the Lord prior to the Parousia will in no way experience any dis- 
advantage when Jesus comes. Instead, they will actually precede those 
who are alive at that time (14:16-17). 

/ Thessalonians 5:1-11 

Paul's parenesis continues in 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11. In 4:13-18 
he addresses the issue of the position of the dead in Christ at the 
Parousia with the purpose of comforting those alive. He now shifts 
his emphasis slightly to address the ethical responsibilities of living 
believers in light of the coming Day of the Lord. Instead of address- 
ing the time in which the Day of the Lord will come, he states that no 
one knows the times and the seasons (xtov xpovoov Kai icov Kaipcov) 

25 Best, p. 186. The reason why such a grief is precluded is because it is a 
characteristic of "those who do not have hope." Most likely this denote unbelieving 
humanity outside of Christ (cf. Eph 2:3, 12). The concept of hope for Paul is especially 
related to the promise of blessedness and joy the believer will experience at the 
Parousia (cf. Titus 2:13). That this hope is not connected simply to a belief in the 
after-life is clear. It is evident from Greek writers, both pagan and Jewish, that there 
was a belief in an after-life (Plato in Gorgias, 524D states that the individual should 
not be judged except after death for then the soul is separated from the body; then the 
soul strips out of the deceiving clothing of the body and it can be judged justly; cf. 
Cratylus, 403B. Furthermore, there also existed a hope in view of death in Jewish 
circles; cf. Philo, de Virtutibus, 76; Legwn Allegoriarum, 2:57, 59; he also held the 
Greek view that the nakedness of the soul after death was desirable; see Wis 3:1-4: 
"But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and no torment shall touch 
them ... yet is their hope full of immorality"; also it is evident that resurrection was an 
aspect of rabbinic theology; cf. Sota 9.15; Sanh 10:1). However, the believer has been 
identified in a union with both the death and the resurrection of Christ (cf. Rom 6:3- 
5). Because of this union, those believers who have died will be raised to be with Christ 
when He returns at the Parousia. This is a hope about which the pagan world knew 

" A Theological Word Book of the Bible, s.v. "Hope," by Alan Richardson; 
NIDNTT, s.v. "Hope," by E. Hoffmann, 2:242. 


of its coming because it comes "as a thief in the night" (ox; kXekxtic, ev 
vukxI) (vv. 1-2). Paul is telling the Thessalonians that they do not 
need someone to write to them concerning the times and the seasons 
of the Day of the Lord because it is not for any person to know this 
information. 27 However, what they should know is that the Day is 
coming and one's preparation for it is dependent on that person's 
spiritual condition. Paul says that those who are unbelievers will be 
overtaken in surprise and will by no means escape judgment (v. 3). 28 

Paul shifts his emphasis in verse 4 to address the relation of the 
Day of the Lord to the believing community. 29 Paul employs an 
indicative-imperative model in his discussion. He first tells these 
believers what they are in verses 4-5 (indicative) and then he exhorts 
them to live out what they are in verses 6-8 (imperative). In verses 
4-5 Paul says that believers are not in darkness (sv OKoxei) but 
instead are sons of light (uioi (pcoxog). Christians are not a part of 
the darkness in which the unbelieving world lies. They are instead 
identified with Christ. Thus as a result (i'va) 31 they will not be in a 

" Robert H. Gundry, The Church and the Tribulation (Zondervan Publishing 
House, 1973), pp. 107-08; also John A. Sproule, "An Exegetical Defense of Pretribu- 
lationism"(Th.D. dissertation, Grace Theological Seminary, May 1981) 157. 

This is the second time Paul uses ou uf| with the subjunctive (eiopuycoaiv) in this 
eschatological discourse for emphatic negation (cf. 4:15). 

The shift to believers from humankind in general is indicated by the adversative 
use of 8e as well as the change to the second person vjpeic; along with the vocative 

30 The imagery of light and darkness is frequently used throughout ancient litera- 
ture. The figures of "darkness" (^n) and "light" (*liX) are found in the Old Testament 
to denote two opposing ethical spheres in which sinners and believers exist (darkness: 
Job 29:3; Isa 2:5; Mic 7:8; light: Job 22:9-11; Pss 74:20; 82:5). The use of light and 
darkness in relation to eschatology and ethics became especially strong at Qumran as 
well as in Jewish apocalyptic material (see 1QS 3:13-4:26; esp. 4:15-16; 4:26 which 
describes two categories of humanity: one of light and the other of darkness. The text 
says in 15:16, "In these [two] classes all the hosts of their generations have a share; in 
their [two] ways they walk and the entire work of their activity [falls] within their [two] 
classes, according to everybody's share, large or small, in all times forever"; then in 26, 
"He knows the work of their actions in all times [of eternity] and He allots them to 
mankind for knowledge of good [and evil], this deciding the fate of every living being, 
according to his spiritual quality . . . visitation," [Italics added], The Manual of Disci- 
pline, trans. P. Wenberg Moller [Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1957] 26-27; regarding light and 
darkness in Qumran texts, see further Friedrich Notscher, Zur Theologischen Termi- 
nologie Der Qumran Texte [Bonn: Peter Hanstein Verlag, 1956] 92-133. For the use of 
light and darkness in Jewish apocalyptic, see T. Naph. 2:7-10; T Benj. 5:3; / Enoch 
61:12; 108:11). The antithesis of light and darkness is also frequent in the New 
Testament, particularly in Paul (Rom 1:21; 2:19; 13:11-13; 1 Cor 4:5; 2 Cor 4:6; 6:14). 
In Paul these figures seem to portray a position or sphere in which one exists by virtue 
of whether or not that person is in union with Christ. 

Although i'va normally introduces purpose, most of the grammarians list this as 
a rare example of result; cf. BDF, #391.5; Zerwick, #351-52; Moule, p. 142; A. T. 


state that the Day may surprise them as a thief (cbc; K.Xemr\(;). In 
addition to calling these believers uioi (pcoxoc;, Paul also says they are 
"sons of the day" (uioi f]uspa<;). The Day has not yet arrived but 
believers in Christ are sons of the day already by a form of realized 
eschatology. Paul's eschatology for the most part assumes a frame- 
work of the aeons, one present and one to come. However, for Paul 
the Christian, the age to come has been inaugurated in the death and 
resurrection of Jesus who is the first fruits of many to follow (cf. 
4:13-14; 1 Cor 15:23). Those who are believers, by virtue of their 
identification with Christ in His death and resurrection, now live 
paradoxically in two worlds. Although they still live in the present 
age there is a sense in which they are a part of the age to come, 
children of the Day. Those, on the other hand, who have not come to 
the light but still live in darkness will be caught off guard by the Day 
when it comes. That believers have some kind of relationship to the 
Day of the Lord seems to be without question. Paul clearly says that 
when this event breaks into human history those who are in the light 
and who are sons of the day will not be surprised. He does not say 
that they will not be surprised because they will not be here. 

Paul has emphatically stated that Christians and non-Christians 
belong to different spheres of existence; the former are new creations 
(2 Cor 5:17; Gal 6:15). Having made this clear he can move directly to 
his purpose, namely, his parenetic concerns. The Christian is able to 
respond differently than the non-Christian to the apocalyptic situa- 
tion. The transition to exhortation is made by the Apostle through a 
tactful change in verse 5b from second to first person (from eois to 
eausv) suggesting that Paul includes himself in the exhortation he 
offers in verses 6-8. 

The introductory phrase dpa ouv in verse 6 is strongly inferential 
and always indicates a new stage in the argument in Paul (cf. Rom 
5:18; 7:3, 25; 8:12), in this case a move to parenesis. As Best notes, 
this parenesis "is based on what Christians are as 'sons of light.' 1 " 34 

Robertson, A Grammar of the New Testament in Light of Historical Research (Nash- 
ville: Broadman Press, 1934) 998. 

32 Cf. Rom 12:2; 1 Cor 1:20; 2:6, 8; 3:18, 2 Cor 4:4; Gal 1:4; Eph 1:21; 2:2, 7; 3:9; 
Col 1:26; 1 Tim 6:17; 2 Tim 4:10; Titus 2:12; in Jewish apocalyptic material the escha- 
tological framework which is frequently found is that of the two ages, i.e., the present 
age which is evil and rebellious (2 Esdr 7:50; 4:27; 6:7-9; 2 Enoch 66:6) and the age to 
come, or Blessed Age (2 Enoch 58:5; 61:2; 2 Apoc. Bar. 44:12; see also Isa 65:17; Jer 
31:10-14; Zech 14:7; Dan 7:22; 12:9, 13); for a good discussion of this concept at 
Qumran, see E. J. Pryke, "Some Aspects of Eschatology in the Dead Sea Scrolls," SE, 
vol. 5, pt. 2 (Berlin: Akademie-Verlag, 1968) 296-302; see also Davies, Judaism, 317- 
18 (cf. Sanh 10). 

"Best, Thessalonians, 211; BAGD, 103. 

34 Ibid., 211. 


While "sons of light" may be a proper designation to the new age, 
Christians are not yet completely in that age and still have to deal 
presently with the struggles of this age. Paul thus exhorts these 
believers to spiritual alertness through a series of hortatory subjunc- 
tives. He first exhorts them not to sleep (pf] Ka0£i35(opev) but to be 
awake (ypriYopdJfxev) and alert (vricpcouev) (v. 6). Paul desires them 
not to sleep because such behavior is a characteristic of this age. 35 
Instead they are exhorted to exhibit a behavior which is ethically 
upright. In verse 8 Paul reiterates the indicative-imperative model. 
Because the believer is characterized by the Day, 37 he is exhorted to 
be vigilant (vricpwuev) in view of the coming Day of the Lord. 38 
Paul's parenetic focus is quite clear. From the use of the metaphors of 
wakefulness and sobriety it is apparent that Paul desires the believer 
to exhibit a certain character at the Day of the Lord; he is not simply 
suggesting an attitude of sober awareness of what is happening but 
moral sobriety. This idea is not uncommon in Paul, particularly in 
1 Thessalonians. In 3:13 and 5:23 he writes that the believer will stand 
"before" Jesus (spnpoaGev) when the Parousia occurs, and it is His 
desire that the believer be "blameless" (&us7rroi)c;). This would mean 
that the Day of the Lord and Parousia impose similar ethical de- 
mands on the believer and would also suggest their similarity, if not 
their identity. 

It has been shown that Paul's purpose in both 1 Thessalonians 
4:13-18 and 5:1-11 is similar, namely, parenetic. He is not concerned 
about eschatological details but instead how eschatology relates to 
ethics. He does not attempt to give any future chronology but instead 
is concerned about how a future event (the Parousia/ Day of the 

BAGD, 388; the figurative nuance is also found in classical Greek with a 
derogatory sense; the term serves to indicate defective concentration or a deficient 
action (cf. Plato, Ion, 536b). 

B. N. Kaye, "Eschatology and Ethics in 1 and 2 Thessalonians," NovT 17 (1975) 
49; ypriyopeo) and vfjcpco occur elsewhere in eschatological contexts (ypr|Yopeco: Matt 
24:42; 25:13; Mark 13:34, 35, 37; Luke 12:37; 1 Pet 5:8; vf|q>co: 1 Pet 4:17); for an 
excellent discussion of vf|(pa> and its eschatological flavor see TDNT, s.v., "vf|(pa>," by 
O. Baurenfiend, 4:936-39; also Evald Lovestam, Spiritual Wakefulness in the New 
Testament (Lund: CWK Gleerup, 1963) 54. The word was used in non-biblical Greek 
as sober in contrast to drunkenness (Aristotle, Politics, 1274b); however, in Corpus 
Hermeticum it was used metaphorically for sober mindedness (see 133.11; 171.22; in 
both of these texts the contrast is made with ueGuco, also used metaphorically). It 
would appear that Paul is employing a similar nuance, namely, a sober expectancy in 
view of the coming Day of the Lord. Moore says that it denotes the "serious responsi- 
bility of moral behavior as drunkenness denotes the abandonment of self control and 
responsibility" (Parousia, 74). 

37 The participle bvxzq should be taken as causal. 

The translation "vigilant" is suggested by the military figures employed in v. 8 
(Gcbpaica and Tr£piKe(pot?aiiav). 


Lord) affects the present lifestyle of believers. Nevertheless, that each 
passage (4:13-18 and 5:1-11) is parenetic would certainly not be 
sufficient to demonstrate literary unity were it not for the fact that 
each passage deals with the same subject matter, namely eschatology. 
Thus the similarity in subject matter gives the second basis for advo- 
cating the literary unity of the entire pericope. 


Although Paul began his parenetic discourse in 4:1, he does not 
discuss eschatology until 4:13. Furthermore, he leaves his discussion 
of eschatology in 5:12 to address general community ethics. Thus in 
4:13-5:11 one might suggest that the same subject and event are 
described, albeit from two different perspectives. There are, however, 
two factors which must be addressed in conjunction with this propo- 
sal. The first is the structural problem of Ttspi 8s in 5:1 and the second 
is the problem of equating Parousia with Day of the Lord. 

According to some, the use of rrepi 5s proposes a sharp contrast 
in thought, thus introducing a new response to a question asked by 
the Thessalonian community. Others prefer to see it as introducing 
a shift to new subject without necessarily any reference to a response 
to a question. For example, Paul Feinberg says: 

the connective is not simply 5s but Tiepi 5s. The subject need not be so 
different that they are in contrast, but there is not simply the continua- 
tion of the same subject. This is Paul's typical way of introducing a 
new topic (e.g., 1 Thess. 4:9, 13). Paul clearly intends some kind of 
distinction here. 4 (Italics added.) 

It is puzzling that Feinberg lists 4: 13 as an example of the use of Ttspi 
5s when actually only 5s occurs there. One, however, might agree 
with some of what Feinberg has suggested. There is a sense in which 
Ttspi 5s does introduce a contrast; particularly in lists of similar things 
it brings about a clearer separation. However, such does not hamper 
a proposal of literary unity for the passage. One could easily argue 
that in 5:1 Ttspi 5s does not necessarily introduce a new subject but 
rather a different ethical concern in light of the same subject, namely, 
comfort regarding the Parousia in 4:13-18 and exhortation to spirit- 
ual alertness in light of the Parousia/ Day of the Lord in 5:1-11. Also, 

39 See C. E. Faw, "On the Writing of First Thessalonians," JBL 71 (1952) 217-32; 
J. R. Harris, "A Study in Letter-Writing," Expositor, series 5, 8 (1898) 161-80; the 
suggestion of a response to a letter is based on the way Paul uses the phrase in 1 Cor 
7:1, 25; 8:1; 12:1 and 16:1. 

Feinberg, Response to Moo, 226. 

41 BAGD, 171. 


that Paul continues the same subject might be suggested by the way 
in which he employs rcepi 8s both in 4:9 and in 5:1. In 1 Thessalonians 
4:6 Paul warns against transgressing (uTtspRaivo)) and defrauding 
(n^sovsKTSG)) one's brother. These activities are the very opposite of 
"brotherly love" (cpiAaSs^cpia), activities that Paul desires these be- 
lievers to avoid. Paul then picks up the theme of "brotherly love" in 
4:9 which he introduces with 7rspi 5s. He says, "now concerning the 
love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for 
you yourselves are taught by God to love one another." Best ac- 
knowledges the connection between the preceding discussion, i.e., 
defrauding a brother, and the concept of "brotherly love" in verse 9. 
He says, "Here the break must be Paul's movement from a general 
statement on brotherly love to the nature of that love in a particular 
situation." 42 Likewise, in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 Paul writes on the 
subject of the Parousia. Then in 5:1 he continues the same subject 
(although now he addresses the time of the Parousia) which he also 
introduces by Tispi 5s. He writes, "now concerning the times and the 
epochs (of the Parousia), brethren, you have no need of anything to 
be written to you, for you yourselves know full well that the Day of 
the Lord will come as a thief. . . ." In both instances (4:9 and 5:1) 
Tispi 5s picks up the preceding theme and reintroduces it with addi- 
tional discussion. Note the structure indicated in Chart A. 

1 Thess 4:3-8 (defrauding one's 
brother in the context of sexual 

1 Thess 4:13-18 (Parousia-believing 
dead will experience no 

1 Thess 4:9 nspi 5s "brotherly love" 

1 Thess 5:1 nspi 6s "times and 

[ou xpsiotv exsts ypdtpeiv uutv] > [ou xP E ^ av £X ET£ Wiv ypd<peo9ai] 

yap > yap 

avzoi uustc; 6so5i5axxoi saxs 

avzoi dxpiPwc; oi'Saxs 


Because 7tspi 5s is used in 1 Thessalonians 4:9 it is reasonable to 
look for parallels with its use in 5:1. The chart above suggests that 
possibility. However, it is also possible that 7ispi 5s finds a parallel in 

Best, Thessalonians, 171; see also George Milligan, St. Paul's Epistles to the 
Thessalonians (London: Macmillan Co., 1908) 52; he says, "From impurity, which is at 


Matthew 24:36. In both 1 Thessalonians 5:1 and Matthew 24:36 7tspi 
5s introduces statements that describe the unknowable character of 
the Parousia/Day of the Lord. Also, the fact that Matthew rarely 
uses 7T£pi 5s (only here and 22:31) may suggest that the phrase was 
part of an oral tradition upon which both Matthew and Paul drew 
and should not be considered simply a stylistic inclusion on the part 
of each writer. Other parallels in language between 1 Thessalonians 4 
and 5 and Matthew 24 and 25 (as will be discussed later) might 
likewise support this suggestion. If 1 Thessalonians 5:1 and Matthew 
24:36 are parallel, this might help to explain how Paul uses 7rspi 5s in 
5:1. For example, Matthew 24:29-31 describes the coming (Parousia) 
of the Son of Man. Following this, 24:36 states, "now concerning that 
day . . ." (Tispi 5s xfjc; fjuspac; SKsivric;). The obvious question is what 
day? In 24:37, this is answered by employing the phrase f\ 7rapouoia 
xoO uiou xoO avOpdmou; here the reference is to the Parousia of the 
Son of Man, the same event he portrayed earlier in verses 29-31. 
There is no change to a different subject but instead a shift in 
emphasis in light of the same subject, namely, the coming Parousia. 
Matthew, like Paul, also moves to a series of ethical injunctions 
regarding alertness in view of the unexpected character of the Parou- 
sia of the Son of Man (cf. Matt 24:42, 44; 25:13). Hence the literary 
structure of both Matthew and Paul exhibit interesting similarities. 

Although the phrase Ttspi 5s remains a problem, it is certainly 
not overwhelming to the proposed thesis of literary unity. Yet, there 
is another problem which must be answered if it is concluded that 
Paul is portraying the same event but with a difference in focus or 
emphasis; the problem is Paul's shift in terminology from Parousia in 
1 Thessalonians 4:15 to Day of the Lord in 5:2, 4. Such a difference in 
terminology might lead to the notion of disparity between the two 
sections, 4:13-18 and 5:1 11. However, if Parousia and Day of the 
Lord are references to the same event why does Paul change his 

The basic meaning of Tiapouaia is either presence or arrival. 
In the hellenistic world the word came to have particular associations 
with the arrival of a central figure. It denoted the ceremonial arrival 
of a ruler to a city where he was greeted with honors of one kind or 
another. The "parousia" was more than the physical act of arrival. 
It also included the attendant ceremonies with which the ruler was 

root so cruel and selfish, the Apostles pass by a subtle link of connexion to the practice 
of brotherly or Christian love, admitting frankly at the same time the Thessalonians' 
zeal in this respect." 

43 2Macc 15:21; 3 Mace 3:17; 2 Cor 10:10; Phil 2:12. 

44 Jdt 10:18; 2 Mace 8:12; 1 Cor 16:17; 2 Cor 7:6-7. 
In Tebtunis papyrus 48: 14, a description is given of plans "in connection with the 
king's visit," npbq xr\v toO PaoiAicoc, irapouoiav; cf. Corpus Hermeticum (Poimandres) 


honored. 46 In the New Testament the word takes on a technical sense 
for the future advent of Christ. Out of its twenty-four uses in the New 
Testament sixteen relate to the future advent of Christ. However, 
outside of the Thessalonian correspondence, 1 Corinthians 15:23 is 
the only passage in which Paul speaks of Christ's Parousia. 48 For this 
reason Deissmann sees a close association between Paul's use of the 
word and the technical sense it attained in the hellenistic world. 49 Yet, 
it is very possible that Paul conceives of the Parousia in 1 Thes- 
salonians 4:15-17 as the coming of the Son of Man described in 
Matthew 24:27, 37, 39. This is suggested by the use of Ttapouoia in 
both contexts. As Best points out, "in the primitive community Jesus 
comes to be identified with the Son of Man and since the Son of Man 
is an eschatological future figure and has to still appear Jesus must 
return as the Son of Man and in the epistles this is interpreted either 
as the Parousia of Christ or as the Day of the Lord." 50 This eschato- 
logical coming of the Son of Man involves not only the glorious 
manifestation of Christ but can also mean judgment. 51 However, in 
1 Thessalonians, Paul's use of napovoia has very positive connota- 
tions for the believer (cf. 1 Thess 2:19; 3:13; 4:15-17; 5:23). 

The fact that the eschatological coming of the Son of Man 
involved judgment on sinners may explain why Paul shifts his termi- 
nology to Day of the Lord in 5:2, namely, because of the judgment 
motif he introduces in this verse. In the Old Testament the phrase 
mrp DV denotes a decisive intervention of God for judgment and 

1.26a; 1.127.17; a similar use is found in Josephus, Antiquities, III. 80, 202; IX. 55; 
XVIII. 284. For a good discussion of this nuance of Ttapouoia see TDNT, s.v. "Ttapou- 
oia," by A. Oepke, 5:858. 

46 Deissmann notes that when an event of this nature occurred, coins were minted, 
money was collected, and even in the case of Hadrian, a new era was reckoned (Adolph 
Deissmann, Light from the Ancient East (reprint ed., Grand Rapids: Baker Book 
House, 1978) 368-73. 

47 Cf. Matt 24:3, 27, 37, 39; 1 Cor 15:23; 1 Thess 2:19; 3:13; 4:15; 5:23; 2 Thess 2:1; 
Jas 5:7, 8; 2 Pet 1:16; 3:4, 12. For a discussion of synonymous terms also used for 
Christ's future advent, see Gundry, Tribulation, 158-59. 

48 Elsewhere in Paul's letters Ttapouoia always refers to the arrival of a human 
being; cf. 1 Cor 16:17; 2 Cor 7:6; 10:10; Phil 1:26; 2:12; in the last of these three texts 
Paul refers to himself; for a treatment of this concept, see Robert Funk, "The Apostolic 
Parousia: Form and Significance," in Christian History and Interpretation: Studies 
Presented to John Knox, ed. W. A. Farmer, C. F. D. Moule and R. R. Niebuhr 
(Cambridge: University Press, 1967) 249-68. 
Deissmann, Light, 372. 

' Best, Thessalonians, 350 51; also H. J. Schoeps, Paul: The Theology of the 
Apostle in the Light of Jewish Religious History, trans. Harold Knight (Philadelphia: 
Westminster Press, 1959) 102. 

'L. Cerfaux notes the similarity in descriptions between the eschatological coming 
of the son of Man in / Enoch and that of Christ (the Son of Man) (Christ in the 
Theology of St. Paul [New York: Herder and Herder, 1959] 36 37, esp. n. 170. The 
description of the coming of the Son of Man in the New Testament as well as in Jewish 


deliverance. 52 It can refer to a near event or to the final climactic 
event, although it is not always clear that the prophets distinguished 
the two. 53 Yet, while the Day is frequently described as one of 
judgment, 54 deliverance for the people of God is also delineated as 
part of the Day. 55 In the New Testament there is great variety of 
expressions for the Day (which consistently refers to the end of the 
age) and it is evident that there is no fixed terminology. 56 The Old 
Testament idea of the Day of the Lord is thoroughly Christianized in 
Paul and hence the blessing associated with it is directly connected to 
one's relationship with Christ. Those who are in Christ anticipate His 
presence or Parousia whereas those who are outside of Christ will be 
overtaken in judgment, a motif in harmony with the phrase f|uepa 

The question then is what does this imply regarding the literary 
unity of 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11? Instead of Paul presenting two 
different events, it is suggested that Paul is presenting a single escha- 
tological event from two perspectives. In 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 
Paul describes this event as a time of blessing for Christians and 
hence uses the term 7rapoi)oia whereas in 5:1-3 he describes the 
judgment this event brings and thus uses the phrase f|uspa Kopioo. 
Paul's eschatological presentation might be considered aoristic in that 
it says nothing about whether these aspects (blessing and judgment) 
are in actuality on different parts of a chronological time line. Fur- 
thermore, he says absolutely nothing about a seven year Tribulation 
period although his presentation certainly allows for it. A challenge 
can be raised to Gundry who, while equating Parousia and Day of 

apocalyptic material is probably under the influence of the Danielic figure in Dan 7; see 
1 Enoch 48:2, 7; 49:2, 4; 51:3; 62:5; 69:27, 29; 71:16. Particularly interesting in this 
regard is / Enoch 69:26-29 in which the revelation of the Son of Man is described. It is 
said to be a great blessing for the righteous and judgment for sinners. 

C. H. H. Rowley, The Faith of Israel: Aspects of Old Testament Thought 
(London: SCM, 1956) 178-200. 

Douglas J. Moo, "The Case for the Posttribulation Rapture Position," in The 
Rapture: Pre-, Mid-, or Post-Tribulational?, ed. Richard R. Reiter (Grand Rapids: 
Zondervan Publishing House, 1984) 183. 

54 Amos 5:18-20; Joel 1:15; Isa 13:6, 9; for a good discussion of the "Day of the 
Lord" in the Old Testament and its connection with judgment, see TDNT, s.v. "f| 
uspa," by Gerhard von Rad, 2:944-47. 

55 Isa 27; Jer 30:8-9; Joel 2:32; 3:18; Obad 15-17. 
Moo lists at least eighteen different expressions that refer to this concept; the 
most noticeable are: 1) "The day of Christ" (Phil 1:10; 2:16); 2) "The day of our Lord 
Jesus" (2 Cor 1:14); 3) "The day of Jesus Christ" (Phil 1:6); 4) "The day of our Lord 
Jesus Christ" (1 Cor 1:8); "The day of the Son of Man" (Luke 17:30). It is particularly 
interesting the way Paul, when referring to the Day, can combine "Lord" and "Christ" 
in one expression (1 Cor 1:8); similarly "Lord" and "Jesus" (2 Cor 1:14). As Moo says, 
"surely this suggests that since for Paul Jesus Christ is the Lord, he uses terms such as 
"Day of the Lord" and "Day of Christ" interchangeably," Posttribulation Rapture, 
248, n. 27. 


the Lord, places these events at the end of the Tribulation period. In 
other words, he assumes a Tribulation framework in his discussion of 
1 Thessalonians 4: 13-5: ll. 57 However, nowhere does Paul mention 
the Tribulation. Moo recognizes this and is more cautious in his 
appraisal, though not disagreeing with Gundry's conclusions. He 
writes, "The fact that the Tribulation seems not to be part of the Day 
suggests that it precedes all these events, but this is not certain." 
What can be said is that Paul presents the Parousia and the Day as "a 
general denotation of the great future that dawns with Christ's com- 
ing." 59 Chart B may help to visualize the difference between the 
proposal offered here and the position of Gundry and Moo. 



7 Year Tribulation 

Exchatological Event — Aoristic 

— Paul makes no statement as to 
where each aspect falls on the time 
line, however, his presentation allows 
for either pre- or post-Tribulation- 
ism. The presentation is general 
and unrefined, hence the description 

Eschatological Event-Precisely at the 
End of the Tribulation 

— Paul assumes a 7 year Tribulation 
and thus is focusing only on the End 
of this time line. This demands a 
posttribulational rapture if Parousia 
and Day of the Lord are equated. 


"Gundry, Tribulation, 100-11. 

58 Moo, Posttribulation Rapture, 184. 

59 Herman Ridderbos, Paul: An Outlines of His Theology (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. 
Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1975) 530-31; cf. also George E. Ladd, A Theology of the 
New Testament (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974) 555. 


Neither the structural problem of Ttepi 5e nor the shift in terms 
from Tiapouaia to f|uepa Kupiou is sufficient to disprove the literary 
unity of 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11. However, in addition to the fact 
that Paul's purpose and subject matter are the same in both 4:13-18 
and 5:1-11, a third reason can be given which suggests the literary 
unity of the entire passage. 


A significant reason to regard 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11 as a 
literary unit is based on Paul's use of apocalyptic symbols throughout 
the passage. Many of the symbols which Paul uses can be found in 
the Old Testament as well as in Jewish apocalyptic material. How- 
ever, the imagery Paul uses bears a striking resemblance to the 
eschatological teaching regarding the coming of the Son of Man in 
the Olivet discourse of the synoptic gospels, particularly the Mat- 
thean form. Although many of the symbols do occur in Jewish 
apocalyptic, the figures appear in isolated texts but never all together 
as one finds in the Matthean parallels. 

That Paul is drawing on traditional eschatological material is 
implied by his statement in 1 Thessalonians 4:15 in which he says, 
"We say this to you by ihe word of the Lord." A number of solutions 
have been offered for this difficult phrase. Hill is probably correct 
when he writes, "May it not mean, as Rigaux and others maintain, 

In the Old Testament (with reference to theophanic appearances and the Day of 
the Lord) one find references to such imagery as trumpets (Exod 19:13; 20:18; Isa 
27:13; Zech 9:14) and clouds (Exod 19:6; 24:15-18; 40:34; 1 Kg 8:10, 11; Ps 97:2; Ezek 
30:3; Dan 7:13; Joel 2:2). For a discussion of the use of contemporary apocalyptic 
symbolism, see Neil, Thessalonians, 98. That Paul is not creating his own imagery can 
be shown from its occurrence in Jewish apocalyptic material (e.g., the figure of 
judgment as "travail upon an expectant mother" [cf. 1 Thess 5:3; Matt 24:8] can be 
found in 1 Enoch 62:4 which says, "the pain shall come upon them as a woman in 
travail, and she has pain in bringing forth;"" see also 4 Ezra 2:26-32; 4:40, 42. 
Furthermore, some of the Pauline metaphors, such as waking and sleeping (cf. 1 Thess 
5:6-7) are found also in classical Greek (e.g., Plato, Symp., 203a which says, "God with 
man does not mingle: but the spiritual is the means of all society and converse of men 
with gods and of gods with men, whether waking or sleeping" [icai £Ypr|yop6ot Kai 
Ka9eu5ouoi] [Italics added]). 

J. Jeremias suggests that the phrase refers to an agraphon ( Unknown Sayings of 
Jesus [London: SPCK, 1957] 67); J. G. Davies suggests that Paul is using a saying of 
the exalted Jesus given to the church through one of its prophets (possibly including 
himself) ("The Genesis of Belief in an Imminent Parousia," JTS 14 [1963] 106); Neil 
states that Paul is drawing from a Jewish or Christian apocalyptic writing (Thes- 
salonians, p. 98); Gunther Bornkamm says that the phrase means an apocryphal word 
of Jesus which came into existence only in the post-Easter church (Paul trans. D. 
Stalker [New York: Harper & Row, 1971] 221). 


that Paul goes back, not to a single saying of Jesus but to his 
apocalyptic teaching as a whole, in order to validate his message and 
clarify the issues which agitated some of his correspondents?" In 
verse 15b Paul states a theological summary of "the word of the 
Lord" which he then gives in the following verses, drawing on tradi- 
tional material into which he inserts his own unique material to suit 
his parenetic purpose. 63 Yet, he does not stop at verse 17 in his use of 
traditional material. He continues until 5:7. In fact, no less than 
sixteen parallels occur between Matthew 24-25 and 1 Thessalonians 
4-5. Note the following parallels: 

1. Christ Himself returns (1 Thess 4:16 with Matt 24:30). 

2. From heaven (1 Thess 4:16 with Matt 24:30). 

3. With a shout (1 Thess 4:16 with Matt 24:30 [in power]). 

4. Accompanied by angels (1 Thess 4:16 with Matt 24:31). 

5. With the trumpet of God (1 Thess 4:16 with Matt 24:31 
[trumpet is unique to Matt in the synoptic tradition]). 

6. Believers are supernaturally gathered to Christ (1 Thess 4:17 
with Matt 24:31; 40-41). 

7. Believers meet the Lord (1 Thess 4:17 [&7i&VTr|cic;] with Matt 
25:1, 6 [i)7rdvxT|ai(; and &7i&VTr|aic;]). 

8. In the clouds (1 Thess 4:17 with Matt 24:30). 

9. The time is unknown (1 Thess 5:1-2 with Matt 24:36); it is 
interesting to note that Ttepi 5e introduces both discussions 
regarding the fact that the time is unknowable. 

10. Will come as a thief (1 Thess 5:2, 4 with Matt 24:43). 

11. Will come at night (1 Thess 5:2 with Matt 24:43 [night is 
unique to Matt in the synoptic tradition]). 

12. Unbelievers are unaware of impending judgment (1 Thess 5:3 
with Matt 24:37-39). 

13. Judgment comes as travail upon an expectant mother (1 Thess 
5:3 with Matt 24:8 [cf. RSV]). 

14. Believers are not deceived (1 Thess 5:6 with Matt 24:4-5). 

15. Believers are to watch (1 Thess 5:6 with Matt 24:42). 

16. Warning against drunkenness (1 Thess 5:7 with Matt 24:49). 

It should be noted that not only are the principal features of Paul's 
discussion found in the Matthean account but even the order is sub- 
stantially the same. Although there are several places in the parallels 

62 David Hill, New Testament Prophecy (Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1979) 130-31. 

63 For example, statements in the first person like r\\i£iq oi C,&vxzq oi nepi?i8i7t6- 
Hevoi are possibly a reworking of the tradition as well as Kupioi; instead of an original 
ui6<; &v9pd)7rou, Jeremias, Unknown Sayings, 80-83. 


in which the material is drawn from what scholars call the traditional 
Q material (cf. Matt 24:37-39; 43-44) or in which material is unique 
to Matthew (cf. trumpet in Matt 24:31 and night in 24:43), there are 
virtually no places in either Luke or Mark that contain parallels that 
Matthew lacks. In other words, Matthew contains all the parallels 
while the other gospels only contain several. 

A few observations should be made regarding the parallel sym- 
bols. First, these parallels do not begin at 5:1 or at 4:16 and stop at 
4:17. Instead, they begin at 4:16 and continue to 5:7. Second, the fact 
that the parallels are not identical always but do exhibit moderate 
dissimilarity suggests that underlying both Matthew 24-25 and 1 Thes- 
salonians 4-5 is an early tradition about the Parousia and resurrection 
with which distinct apocalyptic figures were associated, i.e., trumpet, 
cloud, thief, and others. The dissimilarity of the imagery in both 
accounts may indicate that each writer has used the tradition to suit his 
own individual purpose. Furthermore, if this is true, it might suggest a 
tradition which is more dynamic (oral) rather than static (source/ 

The parallels here cited have been noticed by others, especially 
those of the posttribulational persuasion, 65 and have been used to 
demonstrate the similarity between the events of Matthew 24-25 and 
1 Thessalonians 4-5. Feinberg has recognized this to be a legitimate 
problem for pretribulationalism and thus has attempted to respond to 
it. He writes: 

First, that there should be similarities between passages dealing with 
the posttribulation return of Christ and a pretribulation Rapture of the 
church should not surprise us. While the two events are different, they 
are not entirely dissimilar. The two events may be similar, but they are 
not the same. For me the fact that there are differences, even if they are 
not contradictory, is more significant than the similarities. Second, the 
similarities can be maintained only if we understand the passages in 
their most general sense. 6 (Italics added.) 

Yet, Feinberg's effort is not convincing. He is quite atomistic in his 
evaluation of the apocalyptic symbols used and as a result makes 

4 Cf. J. B. Orchard, "Thessalonians and the Synoptic Gospels," Bib 19 (1938) 19- 
42; see also G. Henry Waterman, "The Sources of Paul's Teaching on the 2nd Coming 
of Christ in 1 and 2 Thessalonians," JETS 18 (1975) 105-13. 

65 Cf. William E. Bell, Jr., "A Critical Evaluation of the Pretribulational Rapture 
Doctrine in Christian Eschatology" (Th.D. dissertation, New York University, April 
1967) 249-50; Gundry, Tribulation, 102-11; Moo, Posttribulation Rapture, 181; 190- 
96. This writer observed these parallels independent of any of these works in "The 
Literary and Theological Unity of 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11" (unpublished M. A. 
thesis, Texas Christian University, 1983). 
Feinberg, Response to Moo, 225. 


some unguarded statements. For example, in his evaluation of the 
parallel regarding the association of clouds with Jesus' coming he 
writes, "In Matthew the Son of Man comes on the clouds, while in 
1 Thessalonians 4 the ascending believers are in them." 67 (Italics 
added.) However, can one maintain this level of refinement when 
dealing with such apocalyptic symbolism? It would appear that the 
gospel writers did not because in the parallel accounts of Mark 13:26 
and Luke 21:27 one finds ev vecpe^cuc; and ev ve(peXr| respectively. 
Both of these phrases have the prepositions sv (cf. 1 Thess 4:17 which 
likewise uses ev) in contrast to Matthew's use of tni. Also, there is a 
distinction between the plural (Mark 13:26) and singular (Luke 21:27) 
use of vs(pe^r|. It would seem that Feinberg has failed to consider the 
parallel accounts of Matthew 24:30 in the other gospels. Another 
example of Feinberg's criticism of parallels between the Olivet Dis- 
course and 1 Thessalonians 4-5 is his evaluation of angels in both 
texts. He says, "In Matthew the angels gather the elect; in 1 Thessa- 
lonians the Lord Himself gathers the believers." 68 However, an exam- 
ination of 1 Thessalonians 4:16 reveals that there is not as much 
dissimilarity as Feinberg suggests. Paul writes, 6 Kupioc; ev KsXsua- 
uaxi . . . Kaxa(3r|aexai, "the Lord will descend with a shout." Fol- 
lowing this assertion there are two additional prepositional phrases 
introduced by sv and connected by Kai. Yet, these two phrases are 
linked asyndetically to cv KeA,eucuaxi and may suggest that the 
"shout" or "command" is accomplished by means of the "voice of an 
archangel" (ev cpcovfj ripxayye^ou) and "the trumpet of God" (ev 
ad^TTiyyi GeoO). Marshall supports this contention by saying, "Paul is 
simply using standard apocalyptic imagery in which the commands of 
God can be given through the intermediary of angels (e.g. Rev. 
7:2J." 69 (Italics added.) 

If the parallels are not as dissimilar as Feinberg states, then does 
the proposal of parallels between Matthew 24-25 and 1 Thessalonians 
4-5 demand a posttribulation position as Bell, Gundry, and Moo 
contend? I would suggest that such an interpretation is not necessarily 
conclusive. As has been proposed earlier, it is possible that Paul in no 
way is working with a refined diachronic time scheme but instead is 
presenting a general eschatological event which has two effects on two 
qualities of people, believers and unbelievers. This general nature of 
Paul's eschatological discussion is quite similar to the eschatological 
presentation of Jesus in the Olivet Discourse. In that discourse there 
is likewise no clear diachronic scheme but instead the portrayal is 

67 Ibid., 225. 
68 Ibid., 225. 
I. Howard Marshall, / and 2 Thessalonians, NCBC (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. 
Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1983) 129. 


very general and unrefined. In fact, one could argue that not only is 
Paul's presentation unrefined but that he has essentially followed the 
methodology of Jesus in the Olivet Discourse. John A. Sproule, 
regarding the prophetic methodology of Jesus, writes: 

In that discourse (cf. Luke 21:20-28) the Lord describes the destruction 
of Jerusalem (a.d. 70) and the end of the age as though they were both 
segments of the same historical event even though almost 2,000 years 
have already intervened between those two events. If one compares 
Luke 21:20, 21 with Matthew 24:15, 16, it appears to the reader that 
the surrounding of Jerusalem (taken by almost all as the a.d. 70 event) 
and the appearance of the "abomination of desolation" (taken by 
almost all as the event marking the middle of Daniel's seventieth week) 
are the same event since both are immediately followed by the state- 
ment, "Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains" (Matt 
24:16; Luke 21:21). Yet they are apparently events separated in time by 
almost 2,000 years also. In fact, one wonders if perhaps these two 
events might not actually be a reference to the same event. 70 

Jesus describes the Parousia without placing it on a diachronic 
time line. He portrays it as an event which will come at the end of the 
age. Like Paul's presentation in 1 Thessalonians 4-5, Jesus' presenta- 
tion of His Parousia could be described as aoristic. Thus one would 
expect close similarities between the Matthean and Pauline accounts. 
Paul was certainly acquainted with the essential content of Jesus' 
discourses. As Sproule says, "Even though this discursive material 
may have not been committed to writing when Paul was writing his 
earliest epistles, it formed a significant portion of the oral tradition 
with which Paul would be well acquainted since much of the oral 
tradition had become fundamental to the very early Christian faith." 

Therefore, it is suggested that the eschatological presentations of 
both Jesus and Paul are in concord as to their unrefined and general 
nature and that each describe the Parousia without any commitment 
to a diachronic time scheme. Both presentations instead are more 
qualitative in nature. If this is true then the parallels between 1 Thes- 
salonians 4-5 and Matthew 24-25 do not necessarily support either 
posttribulationism or pretribulationism. That would mean that it is 
possible to embrace the viability of the parallels while still advocating 
a pretribulational rapture position. Having proposed the viability of 
such parallels, it is necessary to evaluate how they support the literary 
unity of the passage under discussion. It is important to note that the 
parallels with the Olivet Discourse do not occur just in 1 Thessa- 
lonians 4: 1 3- 1 8 or in 5: 1 - 1 1 but as previously noted, run throughout 

Sproule, Pretribulation Defense, 148. 
'ibid., 150. 


the entire passage. Furthermore, it should also be observed that these 
parallels are more than verbal or semantic in nature but are also 
structural, i.e., they exhibit similar arrangement. For that reason, I 
would suggest that Paul follows basically the same structure in 
arranging the parallels as does Matthew. The following table demon- 
strates the relationship. 

Matthew 24 and 25 
Parousia Event 

Matthew 24:30 (Son of Man returns 
from heaven in power) 

Matthew 24:31 (Son of Man attended 
by angels, a trumpet, and the 
elect are gathered 

Matthew 24:30 (Son of Man associ- 
ated with clouds) 

1 Thessalonians 4 and 5 
Parousia Event 

1 Thessalonians 4:16 (Jesus returns 
from heaven with a shout) 

1 Thessalonians 4:16 (Jesus at- 
tended by an archangel, a 
trumpet, and the dead in Christ 

1 Thessalonians 4:17 (Jesus and 
believers associated with clouds) 

Time of the Day Unknown 

Matthew 24:36 (Nobody 
knows where the Day of His 
Parousia occurs; note the use of 
rcepi 5e) 

Time of the Day Unknown 

1 Thessalonians 5:1 (Nobody 
knows when the Day of the Lord 
occurs; note the use of rcepi 8e) 

Unexpected Nature of the Day 

Matthew 24:43 (the Parousia 
will occur as a thief in the night— 
this is the only place in which a 
parallel fails to correspond in 

Matthew 24:37-39 (unbe- 
lievers are taken by surprise) 

Unexpected Nature of the Day 

1 Thessalonians 5:2 (the Day of the 
Lord will occur as a thief in the 

1 Thessaloninans 5:3 (unbelievers 
are taken by surprise) 

Exhortations to Watch 

Matthew 24:42* (believers are 

to watch) 
Matthew 24:29 (believers are 

warned against drunkenness 

[spiritual] which is a quality of 


*The exhortation to watch is 

also found in Matthew 25:13 fol- 
lowing the parable of the Bride- 
groom and the Virgins. 

Exhortations to Watch 

1 Thessalonians 5:6 (believers are 
to watch) 

1 Thessalonians 5:7 (believers are 
by implication warned to avoid 
drunkenness [spiritual] which is 
a quality of the night [spiritual]) 


If one assumes the essential cohesion and unity of Matthew's 
presentation of Jesus' discourse without disparity or disjunction (par- 
ticularly at Matt 24:36), is it not reasonable to assume the same on 
the part of Paul? For this reason it is suggested that Paul has 
composed a single, uninterrupted, literary unit in harmony with Jesus' 
eschatological presentation in Matthew 24-25. The similarity of both 
verbal and structural parallels with Matthew strongly supports this 


A final reason for acknowledging literary unity between 1 Thes- 
salonians 4:13-18 and 5:1-11 is the striking parallels which exist 
between 4:13-14, 18 and 5:9-11. These two texts appear to be stylistic 
brackets or borders for the entire pericope. There are two reasons for 
arguing that 5:9-11 is an inclusio with 4:13-14, 18. 

First, it is possible that Paul employs a pre-Pauline credal form- 
ula in both 4:13-14 and 5:9-10. In 4:14 Paul writes, Tr|oo0c; cursBavev 
Kai dvsaxr). The use of Tr|ao0c; rather than the more usual xpicrcoc; 
suggests that Paul is drawing from terminology not customary to his 
normal vocabulary. Also Paul uses dveaxr] rather than the more 
usual f]ysp9r|. Paul uses sycipco much more frequently in his letters 
for resurrection, whether of Christ or of His people, dviaxr|ui being 
found only here, in 4:16 and in Ephesians 5:14. 72 On the other hand, 
sysipo) is used forty time by Paul, normally in the passive. 3 Inter- 
estingly, it appears from patristic citations that dvioxr|pi continued to 
be used of the resurrection of Christ. Thus the infrequent occur- 
rence of the terminology in 4:13-14 suggests that Paul is drawing on 
foreign material. A pre-Pauline credal formula is also suggested in 
5:10 by the phrase xoO dTioOavovxog imsp fipcov. Bruce notes that its 
similarity in construction to Galatians 1:4 (an articular participle 
which is equivalent to a relative clause), which Bovon has discerned 
to be a pre-Pauline formula, might suggest that we are dealing with 
such a formula in 1 Thessalonians 5:10 as well. 75 Havener likewise has 

"One could argue that dvioTr|ui occurs in Pauline preaching in Acts 17:3. How- 
ever, the use there may be Lucan since he frequently employs ctvioTr|ui (forty four 
times in Acts aloe while using eysipa) twelve times). 

Cf. Best, Thessalonians, 187; he states that the passive suggests that "Christ is 
raised by God." However, note M. Zerwick who states a contrary view, Biblical Greek, 

Cf. Ign. Rom. 4:3 (avaaxfioouai); 6:1 (both a7ro8av6vxa and dvaoxdvia appear 
together, the same two words that occur in 1 Thess 4:14); Barn. 15:9 (dvso~cr|, the same 
form as in 1 Thess 4:14). 

Bruce, Thessalonians, 113; he cites F. Bovon, "Une formule prepaulinienne dans 
Tepitre aux Galates (Ga 1, 4-5)," in Paganism, Judaisme, Christianisme, Melanges 
offerts a M. Simon, ed. A. Benoit, M. Philonenko, C. Vogel (Paris: Boccard, 1978), 


attempted to argue for pre-Pauline material in 5:10, particularly by 
an evaluation of the phrase "who died for us," in verse 10a. 76 If it is 
true that Paul is employing a credal formula here as well as in 4:13- 
14, such would mean that Paul begins and closes his eschatological 
discourse with a confession that the death of Jesus is the basis for 
eschatological hope. However, it must be admitted that such an 
evaluation regarding the pre-Pauline material is somewhat specula- 
tive and inconclusive. 

There is a second and much stronger reason for the presence of 
an inclusio, namely, the close stylistic and semantic parallels found 
between 4:13-14 and 5:9-10. Note the structure indicated in Chart C. 

1 Thessalonians 4:13-14, 18 

v 13 

1 Thessalonians 5:9-11 


v 14 

si . . . 'InaoOg &7t£0av£v kcu 

avsaxn ... 6 9s6<; 

xouc; Koi|ar|6svtac; 

5ia xoO 'Irjaou at,ti 

obv auxco 

. . . sue ypr)Yopcop£V errs 


auv auxco (r/acofxsv 

vv 15-17 (Explanatory/ Confirmatory) 

v 18 

"Q.CTS 7iapaKa?i£iT£ aXXf\Xovq 

(cf. vv 13-17) 

v 11 

Aio 7iapaKaX.£Tx£ dXXriXouc; 

(cf. v 10) 


Ivan Havener, "The Pre-Pauline Christological Credal Formulae of 1 Thessa- 
lonians," SBLSPA, vol. 20, ed. Kent H. Richards (Chico, CA: Scholars Press, 1981) 
1 15; Harnisch has provided the most detailed reasons for a suggestion of a pre-Pauline 
credal formula in 5:9-10. According to him, the signs of a stereotyped confession or 
confessional fragment include: 1) the prepositional phrases "through our Lord Jesus 
Christ" and "for us," 2) participial style in v. 10a, 3) the introductory on in v. 9a, 4) the 
word 7ispi7roirioiq which is a hapax legomenon for Paul, 5) the use of the verb eBeto in 
the aorist, the tense most frequently used in confessional formulae (Eschatological 
Existenz, 122-23. To this Havener adds a sixth reason: the use of f]ua<;, since credal 
formulae frequently employ the first person plural of the personal pronoun (p. 117). 


Although the parallels do not exhibit identical order and form, their 
semantic equivalence throughout argues for intentional parallelism. 
In each passage the death of Christ (&7ts9av£v and anoQavovxoc,) is 
the basis for the believer's hope of life with Him. Each text stresses 
the believer's presence "with Christ" (auv atJTCp). Each text asserts 
that Jesus is the intermediate agent through whom God performs the 
action (5ia . . . 'Ir|aoO). Also, God is the author of both actions (6 
Qzbq a^ei and 6 Bebc, sGeio). Furthermore, in verses 13-17 the major 
problem is the relation of the dead to the Parousia, i.e., verses 13-17 
give the essential assertion, followed by an explanation in verses 15- 
17. Then verse 18 follows with an exhortation "to comfort one 
another." In the same manner, 1 Thessalonians 5:10 reiterates the 
same promise of 4:13-17, i.e., the believer will live with Christ, and 
then verse 1 1 follows with the corresponding exhortation "to comfort 
one another." There is, however, one obstacle to the parallelism and 
that is the identification of the nuance of KaOeuSo) in 5:10. 

Can KaOsuSco be equated with koiu&g) in 4:13-14? Paul normally 
uses Koiutico when he employs the metaphor of sleep for the death of 
the believer. Furthermore, he uses KaOsuSco for spiritual insensibility 
in 5:6. For this reason, Edgar 78 and Kaye 79 have argued that Paul 
uses the verb with reference to spiritual insensibility in 5:10. However, 
there is good evidence to the contrary, namely, that Paul uses the 
verb to mean "death" and hence it is to be taken as a synonym with 
Koiudco in 4:13-14. 

First, although KaOsuSco is not used elsewhere by Paul as a 
metaphor for death, the verb is used this way in biblical Greek. 
Particularly interesting is Daniel 12:2 (LXX) which says, "many of 
them that sleep (xcov KaOeuSovicov) in the dust shall awake, some to 
everlasting life, and some to reproach and everlasting shame. 81 In fact, 
in light of the eschatological nature of Daniel 12:2 (cf. £oL>f]V aicbviov), 
it is possible that Paul is alluding to it and therefore employs the same 
terminology (this would not be a problem given the aoristic nature of 
Paul's eschatological presentation). The verb KOtGeuSu) is also most 
likely a reference to death in Mark 5:39, Matthew 9:24, and Luke 
8:52. In these texts the account is given of Jesus raising Jairus' 
daughter from the dead. " One thing, however, is important, namely, 

77 Cf. 1 Cor 7:39; 11:30; 15:6, 18,20,51; 1 Thess4:13, 14, 15. 

78 Thomas Edgar, "The Meaning of 'Sleep' in 1 Thessalonians 5:10," JETS 22 

79 B. N. Kaye, "Eschatological and Ethics in 1 and 2 Thessalonians," NovT 17 
(1975) 52. 

80 See Tracy L. Howard, "The Meaning of 'Sleep' in 1 Thessalonians 5:10 — A 
Reappraisal," GTJ6 (1985) 337-48. 

s The Theodotion text also uses xrav kciQeuSovtcov as a reference to those who 
have died but who will experience resurrection (see The Septuaginta, ed. Alfred Rahlfs 
[Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelstiftung, 1935], 935). 

82 For a full discussion of this point, see Howard, "The Meaning of 'Sleep,'" 340. 


the nuance of "death" is not out of concord with the semantic field of 
the verb KaGeuSeo. Second, the context of 1 Thessalonians 5:6-8 war- 
rants the nuance of "death" for KaGeuSw. To render it simply as 
"spiritual insensibility" weakens greatly the preceding exhortations. If 
one did give Ka0£u5co such a nuance, a paraphrase of verse 10 might be, 
"although I desire you to maintain spiritual alertness in view of the 
imminent Parousia, Jesus died so that whether we are spiritually insen- 
sible or not, we still might live with Him." Bruce draws a similar 
conclusion when he writes, "It is ludicrous to suppose that the writers 
mean, 'whether you live like sons of light or sons of darkness, it will 
make little difference: you will be alright in the end.' " 83 (Italics added.) 
The weakening of the previous series of hortatory subjunctives is 
obvious (cf. vv. 6, 8). Third, Paul has already used Ka0s\35(o in verses 
6-7 in two different ways (v. 6 metaphorically and v. 7 literally). 84 Thus 
for Paul to give it a nuance of "death" would not be surprising at all 
since he has previously used the verb with two different nuances in the 
same context. In fact, he may be employing an intentional word play 
with the uses in verses 6 and 7. Fourth, the nuance of "death" for 
KaGsuSco in verse 10 is supported by the majority of both commen- 
tators and lexicographers. 85 Finally, as noted above, the numerous 
parallels which already exist between 4:13-14 and 5:9-10 likewise 
argue that KaGsuSco is parallel to Koi(id(o in 4:13-14. Consequently, the 
probability of an inclusio between 4:13-14 and 5:9-10 strongly sug- 
gests the essential unity of the entire pericope. 

It has been proposed that parallels exist between 1 Thessalonians 
4-5 and Matthew 24-25. The suggestion has also been made that 
Paul employs an inclusio between 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 and 5:9- 
10. If both of these observations are combined Chart D offers a clear 
display of the literary unity of the entire passage. 

1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 
— -> (Death of Christ as the Basis for Resurrection) 

The Inclusio Brackets 

the Discussion of The 

Parousia/ Day of the 


1 Thessalonians 4:16-5:8 

(Verbal and Structural Parallels with 

Matthew 24 and 25) 

1 Thessalonians 5:9-10 
-> (Death of Christ as the Basis for Resurrection) 


Bruce, Thessalonians, 1 14. 
4 BAGD, 388. 
5 See Howard, "The Meaning of 'Sleep,'" 346, n. 25. 


It would appear that Paul has bracketed off his discussion of the 
coming Parousia/Day of the Lord with a reminder that the basis for 
the hope of believers (both alive and dead) is the death and resurrec- 
tion of Christ. Such may suggest that this is the main issue behind the 
entire eschatological discourse. Based on this hope, Paul can exhort 
these believers to "comfort one another" (cf. 4:18 and 5:1 1). 


Several reasons have been offered for taking 1 Thessalonians 
4:13-5:11 as one literary unit and not as two distinct units separated 
by Tiepi 8s in 5:1. First, it has been suggested that Paul's purpose is 
the same in both, namely, parenetic. Paul points out the different 
effects the Parousia/Day of the Lord will have on those with different 
spiritual conditions (believers and unbelievers). Second, Paul appears 
to be describing a single aoristic event from two perspectives. For the 
believer it will be a time of blessing and thus Paul uses the word 
Parousia, whereas for the unbeliever it will be a time of judgment and 
hence Paul shifts his terminology to Day of the Lord. The third and 
fourth reasons are most significant. The parallels exhibited with the 
Olivet Discourse along with the inclusio between 1 Thessalonians 
4:13-14 and 5:9-10 support the present thesis, namely, that the entire 
passage is a single literary unit. Thus there is no reason to regard 
5:1-11 either as a non-Pauline interpolation, a passage written later 
to counter gnostic threats, an example of the literary form topos, or 
as a reference to a different situation and event than that found in 

Grace Theological Journal 9.2 (1988) 191-204 




Christian R. Davis 

Recent structuralistic criticism of Jesus' parables usually uses 
naturalistic assumptions, but structuralism can also use conservative 
assumptions about the text. If the Bible is inerrant, then Jesus' 
parables can be analyzed as they stand as units within the gospels. 
Underlying structures of the parables can reveal their "deep meanings. " 

Twenty-seven parables are reduced in five steps to "actantial 
schemata, " then classified into four categories based on the comple- 
tions or negations of schemata and the relationships between schemata 
within each parable. Each category teaches a different underlying 
message. Further structuralistic study might supplement traditional 
biblical hermeneutics. 

Ever since the disciples asked Jesus, "Why do You speak to them in 
parables?" (Matt 13:10b), interpreters have struggled with Jesus' 
parables. Early exegetes, including Tertullian, Origen, and Jerome, 
generally allegorized them, as did nearly all writers who dealt with 
them before the nineteenth century. Even in the nineteenth and twen- 
tieth centuries, critics such as Trench, Dods, and A. B. Bruce con- 
tinued to treat them as primarily allegorical. In the late nineteenth 
century, the German theologian Adolf Julicher proposed that Jesus' 
parables had to be treated as classical parables, teaching a single, 
central lesson — a principle that has become widely though not univer- 
sally accepted. Since then, form critics, such as Bultmann and Dibelius, 
and redaction critics, such as Cadoux, Dodd, and Jeremias, have 
tended to treat the parables as human rather than sacred texts, useful, 
perhaps, in the search for Jesus' original words but not trustworthy as 
accounts of God's special revelation. 

"For a brief survey of interpreters of Jesus' parables, see Jack Dean Kingsbury, 
"Major Trends in Parable Interpretation," CTM 42 (1971) 579-89. 


Most recently, experimental hermeneutical approaches have flour- 
ished. In a 1983 survey of recent literature, David L. Barr claims that 
recent studies "form a veritable spectrum of hermeneutical options: 
from a positivist reading of the text which takes meaning as obvious 
and referential to a semiotic reading which takes meaning to be 
polyvalent and autonomous — with several shades in between." 2 One of 
these recent approaches is structuralism. Defined in simple terms, 
structuralism is a critical methodology that seeks to understand phe- 
nomena (such as myths, folk customs, or literary texts) in terms of 
their structures: the systems or patterns that relate individual phe- 
nomena to each other. Structuralism has grown out of the linguistic 
studies of Ferdinand de Saussure and Roman Jakobson, the anthro- 
pological studies of Claude Levi-Strauss, and the studies of simple 
literary forms (such as folk tales) by Andre Jolles, Etienne Souriau, 
and Vladimir Propp. Among the leading proponents of literary struc- 
turalism today are A. J. Greimas, Claude Bremond, Tzvetan Todorov, 
Gerard Genette, and Roland Barthes. Daniel and Aline Patte and 
Alfred M. Johnson, Jr., have written texts applying structuralistic 
methods to the Bible. 3 

Several biblical scholars have attempted to apply these structur- 
alistic methods to Jesus' parables. Such studies published since 1975 
include works by John Dominic Crossan (1975), Daniel Patte (1976), 
"The Entrevernes Group" (1978), Gary A. Phillips (1985), and John W. 
Sider (1985). This approach is attractive because the parables — as a 
set of short, diverse, yet related narratives (like Propp's Russian folk 
tales and Levi-Strauss's "myths") — provide the kind of material that is 
most suitable for structural analysis. 

Unfortunately, most structuralists assume that the meaning of a 
text lies not in the text itself but in the culture of which the text is a 

2 David L. Barr, "Speaking of Parables: A Survey of Recent Research," TSF 
Bulletin 6 (May- June 1983) 8. 

3 For a general introduction to structuralism, see Jonathan Culler, Structuralist 
Poetics (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1973); Robert Scholes, Structuralism in 
Literature: An Introduction (New Haven: Yale Univ., 1974). For texts on structuralism 
in Biblical criticism, see Daniel and Aline Patte, Structural Exegesis: From Theory to 
Practice (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1978); Alfred M. Johnson, Jr., ed. and trans., Struc- 
turalism and Biblical Hermeneutics: A Collection of Essays (Pittsburgh: Pickwick, 

John Dominic Crossan, The Dark Interval: Towards a Theology of Story (Niles, 
111.: Argus Communications, 1975); Daniel Patte, What Is Structural Exegesis? (Phila- 
delphia: Fortress, 1976); The Entrevernes Group, Signs and Parables: Semiotics and 
Gospel Texts, trans. Gary Phillips (Pittsburgh: Pickwick, 1978); Gary A. Phillips, 
"History and Text: The Reader in Context in Matthew's Parables Discourse," Semeia 
31 (1985) 1 1 1-38; John W. Sider, "Proportional Analogy in the Gospel Parables," NTS 
31 (Jan. 1985) 1-23. 


part. They claim that the interpretation of any given structure is 
dependent on culture and is therefore relative, not absolute. As a result 
structuralism has been applied to Jesus' parables mostly by critics who 
reject conservative assumptions about biblical inspiration in favor of 
naturalistic assumptions about the text of the NT. Crossan, for in- 
stance, has written that "we have literally no language and no parables 
of Jesus except insofar as such can be retrieved and reconstructed from 
within the language of the earliest interpreters." 5 

However, structuralism need not begin with such assumptions. It 
is a method for analyzing texts which can be applied as well by those 
who believe that the Bible is inspired and inerrant as by those who see 
it as a human, fallible document. In fact, structuralistic methodology is 
inherently neutral, espousing no particular hermeneutical presupposi- 
tions. It merely claims that the underlying meaning of a text — 
whatever that may be — can be revealed by methodical analysis of the 
structural relationships within the text. 

Interpreters who hold to the divine inspiration of the Bible have 
probably shied away from structuralism both because it has been used 
mostly by critics with naturalistic assumptions and because of its 
reductionist tendencies: treating texts as mere linguistic artifacts to be 
analyzed. However, structuralism is no more opposed to the doctrine 
of inspiration than is the diagramming of sentences from the Bible 
(which is itself a structuralistic type of method). Just as diagramming a 
sentence might help to reveal the meaning of the sentence, so structural 
analysis of a set of parables might help to reveal the meanings of the 

Hence, this paper will attempt to analyze some of Jesus' parables 
using a structuralistic approach, beginning with three assumptions: (1) 
that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant word of God, (2) that particular 
passages in the Bible can be isolated from their contexts and treated as 
independent units of discourse, and (3) that the structure of a unit of 
discourse is related to the underlying meaning of that unit. These 
assumptions need some explanation. 

The first assumption is not just a point of faith but also a useful 
heuristic principle. If the Bible is inspired and inerrant, then the words 
recorded in the gospels as Jesus' words must represent Jesus' actual 
words. Therefore, this principle eliminates the approach used, for 
instance, in Crossan 's book In Parables: The Challenge of the Histori- 
cal Jesus, which compares the variants of each parable in Matthew, 
Mark, Luke, and Thomas (!), decides what must be Jesus' original 
parables (before their supposed redactions), and then analyzes the 

John Dominic Crossan, In Parables: The Challenge of the Historical Jesus (New 
York: Harper & Row, 1973) xiii. 


structures of these "rediscovered" (if not invented) parables. However, 
based on the assumption of inspiration and inerrancy, the present 
study will analyze Jesus' parables as they stand. (Their texts as given in 
the NASB will be used here as adequate approximations of the original 

Furthermore, this first assumption supports the second assump- 
tion: particular Bible passages can be isolated from their contexts and 
treated as independent units. Although attempts to determine how the 
parables function within the overall structure of the gospels can be 
valuable (see for instance Elizabeth Struthers Malbon's 1986 study of 
this issue), 7 they are not the only way to approach the parables. If the 
parables were the re-creations of the gospel authors, they might well be 
meaningless outside their gospel contexts, but if Jesus himself created 
and told them, then they can validly be treated as independent units 
that are contained in a larger context. Hence, they can be isolated and 
analyzed with valid results. 

Unfortunately, identifying all of Jesus' parables is a nearly insur- 
mountable task in itself. Therefore, this study is limited to only 
twenty-seven texts, each one a narrative told by Jesus in a past tense 
(primarily the Greek aorist). (See the Appendix for the list of texts 
used.) Not included are non-narrative metaphors, such as "You are the 
salt of the earth" or "You are the light of the world" (Matt 5:13, 14); 
present- or future-tense narratives, such as the "unclean spirit" (Matt 
12:43-45), the "stray sheep" (Matt 18:12-13), or the "sheep and the 
goats" (Mark 25:31-46); and narratives about historical figures such as 
David (Mark 2:25-26) or Elijah (Mark 9:13; Luke 4:25-26). All of 
these texts could be used for structural analyses, but they are excluded 
here mainly to simplify this study. 

The third basic assumption of this study is the foundational 
principle of structuralism: that units of discourse are built on under- 
lying structures, the discovery of which can reveal the "deep meaning" 
of the discourse. This "deep meaning" is not simply the interpretation 
of the text. Rather, it is the underlying pattern or idea that all texts 
with the same structure elucidate. Therefore, if the texts under con- 
sideration, or any subset of them, reveal a common structure, they can 
be taken as expressions of the same basic idea. In other words, 
structuralism is used here as a method for finding sets of narratives that 
all express, in varying ways, a common concept. 

6 Crossan, In Parables, pp. 1-34 and passim. 

7 Elizabeth Struthers Malbon, "Mark: Myth and Parable," BTB 16 (Jan. 1986) 

8 Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, 1955 ed., s.v. "Parable (Introductory and 
Biblical)," lists counts of Jesus' parables ranging from Trench's thirty to Bugge's 


sender *- object *- receiver 

helper *- subject -* opponent 

The same actant (human or non-human), may fill several of the six roles 
shown above, and some roles may be unfilled in any given narrative. 

Figure 1. A. J. Greimas' Actantial Schema 

To identify a text's underlying structure, structuralists have pro- 
posed various schemata as foundations for all narratives. For example, 
Vladimir Propp, one of the forerunners of structuralism, focused on 
thirty-one "functions of dramatis per sonae" which he saw as elements 
of the Russian folk tales that he studied. Later structuralists, such as 
Claude Bremond and Tzvetan Todorov, have sought simpler para- 
digms based on the essential action of resolving a conflict. 10 Among the 
most popular schemata today are the "semiotic square" and A. J. 
Greimas' "actantial schema." 11 The semiotic square is a diagram used 
to analyze the semantic oppositions of a narrative, pairing some 
fundamental term with its contrary, its contradictory, and its homo- 
logue. Because it deals with semantic elements and because its 
schematization does not vary (always being a square), the semiotic 
square does not serve the purpose of this study. 

However, Greimas' actantial schema can elucidate the structure of 
a narrative's action without specifying any semantic levels in the text, 
and it can reveal a variety of narrative patterns. Hence, it provides a 
useful paradigm for analysis and classification of the set of texts under 
consideration. This schema is diagrammed as in figure 1. Greimas' 
schema is certainly not the only possible paradigm for elementary 
narratives — it is simply a useful one for the purposes of this study. 

The method for reducing each text to this schema follows five 
steps. First, a text is identified and isolated from its context in order 

Vladimir Propp, Morphology of the Folktale, rev. 2nd ed., edited by Louis A. 
Wagner, trans. Laurence Scott (Austin: Univ. of Texas, 1968), 25-65. 

10 Claude Bremond, Logique du Recit (Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1973) 131-33; 
Tzvetan Todorov, The Poetics of Prose, trans. Richard Howard (Oxford: Basil Black- 
well, 1977) 108-19. 

Among critics of Jesus' parables who use these two schemata are Corrina 
Galland (in Johnson, ed., Structuralism and Biblical Hermeneutics 183-208), The 
Entrevernes Group (Signs and Parables), Daniel and Aline Patte (Structural Exegesis), 
and John Dominic Crossan (The Dark Interval). 

12 Corrina Galland, "A Structural Reading Defined," p. 186, in Johnson, ed., 
Structuralism and Biblical Hermeneutics. 

sender (man) — object (command) *- receiver (doorkeeper) 

helper (0) subject (man) opponent (0) 

This diagram represents a simple action in which a man, who is both the 
originator (sender) and motivator (subject) of a command, gives a com- 
mand to a doorkeeper (receiver). No helpers or opponents are given. 
(Other apparent actions in Mark 13:34 are Greek participles and are 
therefore treated descriptive elements.) 

Figure 2. Actantial Schema of Mark 13:34 

to treat it as a self-contained unit. 13 Second, the text is segmented, 
with one segment for each definite action. Third, passages that do 
not add action (such as descriptive or informative passages) are 
separated out of the elementary narratives of actions. Fourth, the 
actors in each segment are placed within actantial schemata. In very 
simple, one-segment narratives, such as Mark 13:34, this is the final 
step, resulting in a schema like figure 2. In most cases, a fifth step is 
necessary: identification of the relationships between elementary nar- 
rative segments. The two basic relationships to be identified here are 

sequence (either casual or temporal — represented by " »--•") and 

comparison or equality (represented by "— — *"")• 

Once the texts are reduced to schemata (with letters representing 
each actor to reduce semantic interference in the isolation of the 
structure), the patterns of the chosen texts are compared. The criteria 
for comparison used in this study were the completion or negation of 
the narrative (i.e., whether the receiver in the schema does or does not 
receive the object) and the sequences or comparisons of the schemata. 

13 I believe that this procedure is critically justifiable, based on the assumption that 
the gospel accounts are inspired and inerrant, since Jesus himself delivered several very 
similar parables (or forms of the same parable) in different contexts: see the narratives 
of the mustard seed (Matt 13:31-31 and Luke 13:19) and of the marriage feast or the 
dinner (Matt 22:2-14 and Luke 14:16-24). 

l4 Defining a "definite action" is necessarily imprecise because every action can be 
divided into smaller actions or combined to form larger actions. Thus "the sower went 
out to sow" may be seen as two actions (going forth and sowing), as a single action 
(sowing), or as many implied actions (leaving a place, going to a field, entering the 
field, taking seeds in hand, etc.). Structural analysis must presuppose a general seman- 
tic understanding of the text that allows the reader to determine what constitutes each 
"definite action." For further discussion, see The Encyclopedia of Religion, 1987 ed., 
s.v. "Structuralism," by Edmund Leach. 

15 Galland, "Suggestions for a Structural Approach to the Narrative," 190, in 
Johnson, ed., Structuralism and Biblical Hermeneutics. 


Few texts were identical in structure, and all had some resemblances. 
In general, however, four classes of narratives emerged. Class A con- 
tains only completed narrative schemata with no comparisons in- 
volved. Class B is similar but centers on a negated narrative (an act of 
refusal or opposition). Class C consists of a comparison of two simi- 
lar narratives: one a completed narrative, the other, negated. Class D 
uses a sequence of two class-C comparisons, one leading to the other. 

Class A is the simplest but is interesting because, unlike most 
narratives, it involves no apparent opposition, at least in the essential 
action. (Conflict of values may occur on a semantic level, but for 
simplicity, this study is considering only actions, not values.) Its 
pattern is the basic actantial schema (as in figures 1 and 2), with the 
subject normally the same as either the sender (motivating an act of 
giving) or the receiver (motivating an act of taking). Texts that fit this 
class include the narratives of the mustard seed (Matt 13:31-32; Luke 
13:18-19), the leaven (Matt 13:33; Luke 13:21), the hidden treasure 
(Matt 13:44), the pearl (Matt 13:45-46), the laborers in the vineyard 
(Matt 20:1-16), the traveler putting his slaves in charge (Mark 13:34), 
the two debtors (Luke 7:41-42), the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32), 
the unrighteous steward (Luke 16:1-8), and the widow and the judge 
(Luke 18:2-5). Some of these involve several sequential actions, but 
all emphasize the transfer of a single object (not necessarily a material 
object) to a single receiver. Some, such as the mustard seed, the 
leaven, the hidden treasure, the pearl, and the traveler consist of only 
one or two closely connected elementary narratives. Others, such as 
the laborers in the vineyard, the prodigal son, and the unrighteous 
steward, include a longer sequence of narratives. But all express 
completed transfers of one object to one receiver. The only one in 
which an act of direct opposition is expressed is the widow and the 
judge — which could therefore be put in class B — but because its em- 
phasis seems to be on the final act of giving (i.e., the judge gives legal 
protection to the widow), it has been placed, at least tentatively, in 
class A. 

Perhaps the most interesting example in class A is the prodigal 
son (Luke 15:11-32). This narrative includes at least five elementary 
narratives, but each one is completed: the man gives wealth to his 
son; the son gives away wealth; the son gives himself to a citizen; the 
son gives himself to his father; the father receives him and then gives 
him gifts. Though the older son expresses anger, he never acts out his 
opposition. A structural diagram with letters for each actor might 
look like figure 3. The significance of this example is that it shows in 
an objective way how this relatively complex narrative expresses the 
same type of pattern (hence the same basic idea) as that in such 
simple narratives as the mustard seed or the hidden treasure. In fact, 



b C&d 


-h d 

vv 11-12: father (a) gives wealth (b) 
to sons (c & d) 

v 13: son (c) gives away wealth (b) 

vv 14-16: son (c) gives himself to 
citizen (e) 

vv 17-20a: son (c) gives himself to 
father (a) 

vv 20b-31: father (a) gives wealth (b) 
to son (c) (helped by slaves [f], 
opposed by other son [d]) 

The narrative is represented as a series of completed elementary narra- 
tives. Some segments could be united or subdivided; this figure merely 
approximates the total structure of the parable. 

Figure 3. Actantial Schema of Luke 15:1 1 32 (the prodigal son) 

by condensing the intermediate segments in the sequence, the narra- 
tive of the prodigal son could be reduced to a single, completed 
actantial schema (like figures 1 and 2) with the father as sender, 
wealth as the object, the younger son as the receiver, the father and 
younger son combined as the subject, slaves as helpers, and the older 
son as an unsuccessful opponent. 


a — b — j~*~ C 

The key element in class B is the segment in which the transfer of the 
object (b) to the receiver (c) is negated ( — /-*~). There is often opposition 
(d), and the subject is often the same as the sender. 

Figure 4. Actantial Schema Typical of Class-B Narratives 

Class B is similar to class A in that its narrative segments are 
arranged sequentially. However, in B, a key segment is a negated 
narrative, as schematized in figure 4. Examples with this structure are 
the narratives of the unforgiving slave (Matt 18:23-24), the land- 
owner and the vine-growers (Matt 21:33-40; Mark 12:1-9; Luke 20:9- 
16), the marriage feast (Matt 22:2-13), the rich fool (Luke 12:16-20), 
the barren fig tree (Luke 13:6-9), the dinner (Luke 14:16-23), and the 
rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31). In each of these narratives, a 
key segment — usually the last one — is negated. Thus, the unforgiving 
slave negates his fellow slave's plea for mercy (Matt 18:30), and the 
king subsequently negates the slave's plea for mercy (Matt 18:34). In 
Matt 21:33-40, the vine-growers refuse to receive the landowner's 
slaves — a negation that implies a further negation of the transfer of 
fruits to the landowner. (The landowner's destruction of the vine- 
growers is related in future tense, outside the narrative proper — Matt 

An unusual example of a class-B narrative is that of the marriage 
feast (Matt 22:2-13). Most class-B narratives contain either a single 
act of negation (as in the landowner and the vine-growers) or a 
negation leading to a second negation (as in the unforgiving slave). 
But in Matt 22:2-14, the marriage feast has three basic negations: the 
guests' rejection of the feast (vv 3, 5-6), the king's subsequent destruc- 
tion of the guests' city (v 7), and the weakly connected rejection of the 
man without wedding clothes (v 13). If vv 11-13 — the man without 
wedding clothes — are separated from vv 2-10 — the guests' rejection 
of the feast — the two resulting narratives both fit class B. In light of 
this apparent structural aberration, a comparison with the similar 
narrative of the dinner, recounted by Luke (Luke 14:16-23), is useful. 
Luke's narrative has different details but has essentially the same 
structure as Matthew's until the end, when Luke's narrative leaves 
out the man without wedding clothes. 



a ■- b "- C 

In most class-C narratives, a sender/ subject (a) gives an object (b) to a 
receiver (c), and a different sender/ subject (d) fails to give ( — /-*-) the 
same object (b) to the same receiver (c). 

Figure 5. Actantial Schema Typical of Class-C Narratives 

While some critics take this variation as evidence of editorial 
redaction, structural analysis suggests another possible explanation. 
If, as has been suggested, narratives with the same basic structure 
express the same underlying idea, Jesus may well have been expres- 
sing the same idea in different ways for didactic force. In the context 
of Matthew 22, Jesus juxtaposes two different expressions of the 
same idea. 16 (He apparently did the same thing in Matthew 13, where 
he juxtaposes the narratives of the mustard seed and the leaven and 
those of the hidden treasure and the pearl.) In Luke 14, in a different 
context, he used yet another expression for the same idea. If one 
accepts the premises that different expressions of the same structure 
communicate the same underlying idea and that Jesus sometimes 
juxtaposed two different expressions of the same idea, then the un- 
usual structure of Matthew 22 and the variations in Luke 14 are 
easily explained as normal manifestations of Jesus' uses of narratives. 

In class C, two separate narrative segments — one completed and 
one negated — are compared. Figure 5 shows the basic structure. 
Narratives of this type include the two foundations (Matt 7:24-27; 
Luke 6:47-49), the sower (Matt 13:3-8; Mark 4:3-8; Luke 8:5-8), the 
dragnet (Matt 13:47-48), the two sons (Matt 21:28-30), the good 

l6 Such juxtaposition seems to be typical of the Hebrew mind, as evidenced by the 
parallelism often used in the Psalms and Proverbs. 


Samaritan (Luke 10:30-35), the Pharisee and the publican (Luke 
18:10-14), and the minas (Luke 19:12-27). In several cases, such as 
the sower, the two sons, the good Samaritan, and the minas, there is 
also a preliminary narrative segment that introduces the comparison, 
but in each case it is obviously no more than a device to establish the 
situation (e.g., "the sower went out to sow" — Matt 13:3b). Also, in 
two cases — the sower and the good Samaritan — the negated narrative 
is repeated before the final, completed narrative segment occurs. For 
example, the seeds beside the road, upon the rocky places, and 
among the thorns all fail to yield a crop before the seeds on the good 
soil do finally yield a crop. However, the pattern is still essentially a 
comparison of a negated narrative (which is repeated) with a com- 
pleted narrative. 

Perhaps the most useful fact to notice in Class C is that complex 
narratives such as the sower and the good Samaritan have the same 
structure as such simple narratives as the two foundations and the 
two sons. If the structuralistic method is valid, hermeneutical inter- 
pretation should find close similarities among these narratives. 

The final class, class D, consists of combinations of classes B and 
C. In particular, a comparison of completed and negated narratives 
(as in class C) leads sequentially (as in class B) to another comparison 
of completed and negated narratives. While the specific narrative 
roles vary, the basic structure is given in figure 6. There seem to be 
only three examples of this class in the gospels: the tares among the 
wheat (Matt 13:24-30), the ten virgins (Matt 25:1-13), and the talents 
(Matt 25:14-30). This class is the smallest but also the most complex 
of the four. 

One interesting problem in class D lies in a comparison of the 
narrative of the talents with the class-C narrative of the minas (Luke 
19:12-27). As with the marriage feast and the dinner, Matthew and 
Luke retell two different narratives with obvious structural similari- 
ties in two different situations. Matthew's narrative of the talents 
(told during the Passion Week) is a definite example of class D, with 
a comparison of the slaves' handling of the talents leading to a 
comparison of the man's subsequent treatment of the slaves. How- 
ever, Luke's narrative of the minas (told before entering Jerusalem), 
while very similar to the second half of Matthew's narrative, leaves 
out the narratives of the slaves' handling of the money and inserts a 
seemingly unrelated narrative about the citizens' rejection of the 
nobleman. Luke's version is probably best seen as a class-C narrative 
(comparing the faithful slaves' completed narratives with the worth- 
less slave's negated narrative) with an inserted class-B narrative (the 
citizens' delegation leads to the nobleman's rejection of the citizens). 
An obvious lesson to be learned here is that the boundaries between 




b — 









-_. J 


1 / 







3 ' J 




* i 

1 / 



In class-D narratives, a comparison (as in class C) leads to another 
comparison (as in class C). The same sets of characters usually act 
throughout the four segments, but the roles of each character may vary. 

Figure 6. Actantial Schema Typical of Class-D Narratives 

the classes are arbitrary and flexible, with one kind of narrative easily 
combined with or transformed into another. 

Such arbitrariness could arouse objections to the method. How- 
ever, structuralism does not claim to find the only structures or 
classification schemes applicable to the texts. It only claims to find 
possible structures and schemes, with the further claim that if they are 
found by application of consistent rules of analysis, they will reveal 
patterns that reflect the underlying ideas of the texts. Different rules of 
analysis may reveal different structures, but if, as this study assumes, 
there is an absolute truth underlying each text, then any consistent 
structural analysis of the texts should lead toward that truth. 

Another possible objection to this study is that the classes of texts 
and their underlying ideas could be determined by more intuitive 

The opposite assumption — that there is no absolute truth underlying any lin- 
guistic text and that different structures will therefore reveal different ideas — has led to 
the radical deconstructionist movement. 


hermeneutical methods. While this objection has some validity, it 
misses the point that structuralistic methods do not replace hermeneu- 
tical methods but supplement them. Structural analysis attempts to 
reveal and objectify the linguistic foundations upon which hermeneuti- 
cal interpretations are built. 

In conclusion, although the purpose of this study is only to 
suggest how conservative Bible scholars might employ structuralistic 
methods — not to take the further step of interpreting the ideas repre- 
sented by the patterns that have been identified — a few suggestions for 
interpretation might help clarify the study's results. For instance, the 
narratives in class A, whether simple or complex, all reveal a pattern of 
completed transferral of object to receiver. It may therefore be inferred 
that in each one, Jesus was emphasizing an act of giving. Hermeneuts 
can determine what is given, by whom, to whom. (God's gift to man of 
eternal life is an obvious possibility.) Class-B narratives all emphasize a 
negated act. Again, hermeneuts can determine what is negated and 
what the negative force (the opposition) is. (Rejection of salvation 
because of man's sinful nature is a possibility.) Class C reveals two 
equal but opposite forces: a dualism that seems to be part of Jesus' 
message (perhaps distinguishing two types of people, such as the 
regenerate and the unregenerate). Class-D narratives seem to reveal the 
consequences of oppositions between the two groups identified in 
class C (probably God's rejection of the unregenerate). 

These suggestions reveal nothing new or surprising; however, 
that does not mean the method is unsuccessful. On the contrary, new 
or surprising results, contradicting established interpretations, would 
make the method suspect at best. Yet this study has shown that 
structuralism can work within conservative assumptions about the 
Bible to reveal new ways of looking at Jesus' narrative parables. 
Further uses of structuralism in biblical study could be almost limit- 
less. Undergraduate Bible students might find elementary structural 
exercises helpful for developing their analytical skills. For advanced 
students, much more detailed analysis of Jesus' narratives remains to 
be done, and other biblical narratives, such as accounts of miracles or 
dreams, the gospels themselves, the apocalyptic visions of Daniel or 
Revelation, or the historical accounts in the OT or Acts might con- 
tain significant structural patterns. Though more difficult to analyze, 
non-narrative passages such as didactic discourses and poetic pas- 
sages can be approached structuralistically. In short, the entire Bible 
is open ground, largely untouched by structural analysis, at least 
insofar as conservative theologians are concerned. With increasing 
refinement of our methods, structuralism may help us to refine our 
understanding of God's word. 





Class A 

mustard seed 


hidden treasure 


laborers in the vineyard 

traveler putting his slaves in charge 

two debtors 

prodigal son 

unrighteous steward 

widow and the judge 

Class B 

unforgiving slave 
landowner and vine-growers 

marriage feast 

rich fool 

barren fig tree 


rich man and Lazarus 

Class C 

two foundations 



two sons 

good Samaritan 

Pharisee and the publican 


Class D 

tares among the wheat 

ten virgins 


Matt 13:31-32; Luke 13:18-19 

Matt 13:33; Luke 13:21 

Matt 13:44 

Matt 13:45-46 

Matt 20:1-16 

Mark 13:34 

Luke 7:41-42 

Luke 15:11-32 

Luke 16:1-8 

Luke 18:2-5 

Matt 18:23-34 

Matt 21:33-40; Mark 12:1-9; 

Luke 20:9-16 

Matt 22:2-13; Luke 14:16-23 

Luke 12:16-20 

Luke 13:6-9 

Luke 14:16-23 

Luke 16:19-31 

Matt 7:24-27; Luke 6:47-49 

Matt 13:3-8; Mark 4:3-8; Luke 


Matt 13:47-48 

Matt 21:28-30 

Luke 10:30-35 

Luke 18:10-14 

Luke 19:12-27 

Matt 13:24-30 
Matt 25:1-13 
Matt 25:14-30 

Grace TheologicalJournal9.2(\9U) 205-232 


Ronald T. Clutter 

Grace Theological Seminary was born in an era of contention in 
the American church. The Fundamentalist- Modernist controversy 
which divided major Protestant bodies affected also the Brethren 
Church. Alva J. McClain, a Brethren leader of Fundamentalist bent, 
envisioned a graduate seminary for his denomination. As a result of 
pressures for such a school, a seminary was established at Ashland 
College but was not received enthusiastically. Seven years of tensions, 
Fundamentalist- Modernist and Fundamentalist- Brethren, resulted in 
the dismissal of Dean McClain and Herman A. Hoyt and the found- 
ing of a new seminary for the Brethren. 


The Fundamentalist-Modernist controversy of the 1920s and 1930s 
resulted in division within different American Protestant denomi- 
nations. One of the smaller bodies to suffer rupture was the Brethren 
Church, itself the result of a schism dating back to the' 1880s. Unable 
to settle its difficulties, the new denomination divided in 1939. At the 
center of the conflict was Alva J. McClain with two fruits of his 
labor — Ashland Theological Seminary in Ashland, Ohio, and Grace 
Theological Seminary in Akron, Ohio, later to locate in Winona 
Lake, Indiana. 

The existence of the graduate theological seminary for the Breth- 
ren Church had its origin in the mind of McClain. He envisioned an 
institution which would perpetuate and defend the distinctions of the 
Brethren. His dream became a reality and then developed into a 

'For an excellent discussion of the Fundamentalist-Modernist controversy as it 
affected the Brethren Church, see Dale Stoffer, "The Background and Development of 
Thought and Practice in the German Baptist Brethren (Dunker) and the Brethren 
(Progressive) Churches (c. 1650 1979)," (Ph.D. dissertation, Fuller Theological Semi- 
nary, 1980) 571-619 and 680-739. 


nightmare. Attempting to blend the basic tenets of Brethrenism and 
Fundamentalism, McClain became embroiled in conflict which re- 
sulted in his dismissal from Ashland and efforts to establish a new 

Mcclain's early life and ministry 

Born in Aurelia, Iowa, on April 11, 1888, to Walter Scott and 
Mary Ellen Gnagey McClain, Alva J. McClain was raised in the 
Brethren Church. Moved to Arizona and Washington as a youth, he 
attended the University of Washington but did not graduate from 
that institution. Converted under the ministry of Louis S. Bauman, 
McClain enrolled at the Bible Institute of Los Angeles where Reuben 
A. Torrey, a friend of Bauman, served as dean. He continued his 
education at Xenia Theological Seminary, a Presbyterian institution 
with an evangelical emphasis. Having satisfied residence requirements 
for the Th.M. degree, McClain subsequently finished his B.A. work at 
Occidental College in Los Angeles. Ordained a minister of the Breth- 
ren Church, he served as pastor of the First Brethren Church of 
Philadelphia from 1918 to 1924. 

While at Philadelphia, McClain became embroiled in a denomi- 
national controversy. In a period of tension for many Protestant 
bodies, the Brethren Church found itself confronted with theological 
modernism in its ranks. Before the liberalizing influence had gained a 
foothold in the denomination, action was taken. The "Message of the 
Brethren Ministry," to which McClain was a primary contributor, 
was adopted by the National Ministerial Association in 1921. This 
document was opposed by some members of the denomination who 
represented the traditional Brethren aversion to creeds. One of these 
opponents was John Lewis Gillin, former president of Ashland Col- 
lege, who was serving as a member of the board of this Brethren 
institution. Through the influence of Gillin and a small number of 
others sharing his ideas, doctrine was deemphasized and social con- 
cerns magnified. Gillin allowed great latitude in doctrine, a matter 
which concerned many Brethren. The "Message of the Brethren Mini- 
stry" affirmed the infallibility of the original manuscripts of the Bible, 
the pre-existence, deity and virgin birth of Jesus as well as His 
vicarious atonement through the shedding of blood. Justification was 
recognized as coming through the faith of the individual, not by 
works, though works served as an evidence of justification. McClain 
listed four results of this doctrinal declaration: 

First, it provided a rallying point for the evangelical ministers of the 
church, and was widely endorsed and used by congregations, district 
conferences, and ministerial examining committees. Second, a number 


of liberally inclined ministers left the Brethren Church and entered 
other denominations. Third, Dr. Gillin stopped attending the General 
Conference, and the few remaining ministers who had supported the 
"liberals" suffered a marked decline in influence. Fourth, the churches 
temporarily at least gained a larger voice in the affairs of Ashland 
College, and began a definite agitation to place on its faculty more men 
of unquestioned loyalty to the great truths of the Christian faith. 2 

McClain joined the faculty of Ashland College in 1925. 

mcclain at ashland college 

Ashland College, in Ashland, Ohio, was chartered in 1878 and 
was reincorporated under the Progressive Brethren, later the Brethren 
Church, in 1888. The college served, among other purposes, to train 
men for ministry. A seminary department was begun in 1906. A 
graduate of the seminary program received an undergraduate degree 
of A.B. in Divinity. McClain taught for two years in the seminary 
program. Before he accepted the duties at Ashland, he clearly ex- 
pressed his thinking about the seminary department in a letter to 
J. Allen Miller, dean of the Bible department. McClain affirmed that 
the "seminary" could not prosper until independent of the college 
program with its own faculty and extracurricular program. He hoped 
to see such a program begun if only with one teacher. Though recog- 
nizing the importance of the college ministry, he emphasized that he 
wished to have his duties limited to the "seminary," declaring that he 
would rather teach elsewhere or return to the pastorate than teach in 
the college. 3 He had written previously to Edwin E. Jacobs, president 
of Ashland College, expressing the need for a graduate seminary and 
his desire to teach only in the seminary program because of his 
conviction that students would not favor sitting at the feet of the 
same teacher for the seven years of college and seminary education. 

Four years of the same mannerisms, the same jokes, the same ideas, the 
same methods, is quite enough for the average intelligent student. This, 
to me, at least partially explains why the Ashland student speaks highly 
of the College but often refers to the Seminary as a "joke." It is not a 
reflection upon the Seminary professors, but the College takes the best 
from them, and leaves the residue for the Seminary. 4 

Alva J. McClain, "The Background and Origin of Grace Theological Seminary," 
in Charts: The History of Grace Theological Seminary, 1931-1951, ed. John Whitcomb 
(Winona Lake, IN: Grace Theological Seminary, 1951) 12. 

3 Alva J. McClain to J. Allen Miller, 8 July 1925, McClain files, Morgan Library, 
Grace Schools, Winona Lake, Indiana. 

4 Alva J. McClain to Edwin E. Jacobs, 25 May 1925, copy, McClain files. 


Not realizing his desires for a seminary, McClain departed from 
Ashland in 1927. He wrote of his concern about the situation: 

In the first place, the restriction of the "seminary" work to a mere 
major in the college was continued by the administration with no 
apparent serious interest in placing it on a graduate basis. Second, the 
best ministerial students were becoming ambitious for advanced theo- 
logical training and were beginning to look toward other schools for 
such work on a graduate level. Some were giving up their proposed 
"Bible majors" to work for the regular Bachelor of Arts degree so as to 
lay the necessary basis for entrance to the standard theological semi- 
naries. Third, because it had become clear that "liberal" tendencies in 
life and faith still existed on the campus, the environment there did not 
seem at the time favorable for the establishment of the kind of theo- 
logical school needed by the Brethren Church. 


Upon leaving Ashland, McClain went to BIOLA where he taught 
courses in Christian doctrine for two years while continuing to formu- 
late plans for "a theological seminary which would embody certain 
educational objectives and ideals which he felt were not being fully 
realized in any existing school at the time." He wished to see a 
wedding of theological seminary scholarship with the spiritual warmth 
and practical emphasis of a Bible institute. With this ideal in mind, 
McClain consulted with Louis S. Bauman, who had helped bring him 
to salvation and whose church he had attended in Long Beach, 

Plans for a Seminary 

Bauman had served the denomination long and well as a pastor, 
evangelist, prophecy conference speaker, and strong advocate of mis- 
sions. He started the First Brethren Church of Long Beach in 1913 
and under his pastoral care the congregation grew to be the largest in 
the denomination. Bauman shared McClain's concern for quality 
Christian education and plans were made for the establishment of the 
seminary McClain desired. In response to a letter from Jacobs in 
which the Ashland president expressed interest in McClain's return to 
that school, Bauman wrote: 

A number of people here in the church, and out of it, have in mind the 
beginning of a real seminary here in Long Beach. There are young men 
who might make great and useful servants of the church, if the Lord 

McClain, "The Background and Origin of Grace Theological Seminary," 12. 
"Ibid., 13. 


shall tarry, who have not the means to go far away from home and 
spend years in preparation. And since the situation exists in the Bible 
Institute of Los Angeles as it does, they have not the enthusiasm for 
that institution they once had. We believe that if we can secure Brother 
McClain here for the organization and developing of a work, that 
helpers for him can be secured and that the money will be forthcoming. 
In fact, we have this in mind in the building of our new building. Of 
course, we have not in mind the running of a school that will give 
degrees, or anything of that sort. It will be of the nature of a Bible 
Institute, and perhaps a seminary in embryo. McClain has a tremen- 
dous influence and "pull" here in Southern California, and if we can 
make terms with him, we believe that something worth while can be 
done. We would not want to do anything, however, that would detract 
from our interests in the seminary at Ashland. 7 

Concern about location 

This news of potential competition was not welcomed at Ashland 
which was facing evaluation by the Ohio College Association and the 
North Central Association for accreditation. The Ohio association 
was concerned about the lack of faculty members who held doctor's 
degrees. The association also would not recognize theology teachers 
in the count of college faculty members. 8 McClain had no doctor's 
degree and, if rehired by Ashland, would be another theology teacher 
who could not be recognized by the Ohio association. At the same 
time the need to find more faculty personnel put a financial burden 
on the school. One positive result of the situation is that Kenneth 
Monroe and Melvin Stuckey, who had been teaching in the college 
and the seminary department, were no longer to teach college courses. 
The separation of college faculty and seminary faculty had come 
about by state requirement. The pressure to add McClain to the 
Ashland faculty continued to be applied by Bauman. 

In June, 1929, he again mentioned in a letter to Jacobs the 
possibility of a seminary at the Long Beach church. He stated: 

One of the best men in the Bible Institute has expressed a desire to join 
McClain here in such a work, and we are being promised considerable 
help from outside the Brethren Church if we will undertake such a 
work, with McClain at the head of it. McClain is the most popular 
man that the Bible Institute has had on its Faculty in recent years, and 
with him at the head of a seminary here, we would not want for 
students. We might want for funds. 

Louis S. Bauman to Edwin E. Jacobs, 23 April 1929, copy, McClain files. 
Edwin E. Jacobs to Louis S. Bauman, 30 March 1929, copy, McClain files. 
Louis S. Bauman to Edwin E. Jacobs, 27 June 1929, copy, McClain files. 


The problem of finances was not viewed as insurmountable for 
the possibility of outside help existed. Bauman continued: 

When Dr. Chafer, from Dallas, Texas, was here, we talked the matter 
over with him, and we find that the Evangelical College at Dallas [later 
renamed Dallas Theological Seminary] has a mind to extend its work 
by placing branches of that school, under efficient teachers, at various 
points in the United States. Such an institution is greatly needed in 
Southern California — that is, an institution with the faith and the 
ideals of the Evangelical College at Dallas. If we could keep McClain 
here, I am sure that Dr. Chafer would look favorably upon the propo- 
sition, and the Long Beach Church would be glad to furnish the 
building facilities. 

Bauman repeated his point of previous correspondence that the 
work in Long Beach was not meant to be a challenge to the ministry 
at Ashland but that it was to meet the needs of those who could not 
or wished not to leave the west. He also emphasized his desire to see 
McClain at Ashland if such a situation were possible. He added: "I 
know only too well that if McClain could be persuaded to return to 
Ashland, and you should see the wisdom of making him Dean of the 
seminary, it would greatly strengthen the Brotherhood's support of 
Ashland College." 

Jacobs responded to Bauman, presenting both his desire for 
McClain and his dilemma. 

Here is the situation. We need him here and ought to have him 
here. More than that, no one would object to his being Dean of the 
Seminary. Brother Miller and I understand that fully. However, here is 
the situation. 

We have about forty people in the seminary. Three full-time teachers, 
none of whom have full work. Monroe, Miller, and Stuckey, all three 
do not have a complete load of hours. How we could bring a fourth 
teacher here in the Seminary, even if we had the money, is more than I 
could understand. If it were possible to take Prof. Miller into the 
College, we could do that, but he would not qualify for that. I hope to 
see you at conference and talk the matter over with you because I feel 
that the future of the church very largely depends on the leadership in 
the Seminary here. Dean Miller is getting old. I think we need a 
younger man. He also feels the same way. 

I do not see my way clear now to make a more definite statement. 
Would it be possible for McClain to edit our Sunday School literature 
and preach in our local church while we wait further developments? If 
one of the three Seminary men could be shunted to other work for the 

lu Ibid. 


church, it would open a way for McClain, but you see this is an 
exceeding delicate situation. 

I note what you say about the Seminary on the coast. Naturally I 
would rather not see it because I would rather have McClain here and 
regret that McClain did not stay when he was here. I am inclined to 
think in time the seminary there would militate against the work here 
nor could it ever have high scholastic recognition without considerable 
outlay of money, equipment, etc. I would be much better pleased and I 
think the church would be better served if a way were provided to 
bring McClain here and in the Seminary. 

In the fall of 1929, Charles H. Ashman, St., unofficially com- 
municated to McClain in behalf of the Ashland College Board of 
Trustees their desire that he come to serve that institution as seminary 
dean. The trustees were considering a separate seminary faculty and 
hoping that eventually a seminary building could be constructed. It 
was the proposal of President Jacobs that McClain come as dean in 
light of the fact that Miller had agreed to step down from the post. 
Ashman concluded with a statement of concern. 

The more I think about it, the better I become convinced that it would 
be suicidal right now to attempt any removal of the Seminary from 
Ashland. I have been in Ashland twice since Conference. I have 
sounded out the Seminary Students and almost universally the senti- 
ment is for a change of Dean and Program, but at Ashland. I have 
sounded out the Pennsylvania Conference, one of the largest in the 
Brotherhood, and almost without exception the overwhelming convic- 
tion is that the Seminary must stay at Ashland. I am persuaded that 
any attempt to remove it would actually split the Brethren Church. My 
thought and plan is to make the necessary changes and put across the 
aggressive program, thus building the Seminary up to that point of 
power at which it can assert itself and make demands. Then, if at a 
future hour we see that it cannot be developed as it ought without 
removal, we would be in a position to do something. But, right now, I 
believe it would be most unwise. 13 


Jacobs ' Concern 

Jacobs was caught between the desire of the Board of Trustees 
for McClain, which desire he himself expressed, and the requirements 
of the North Central Association regarding Ashland. He was con- 
vinced that a seminary as a separate school on the Ashland campus 

Edwin E. Jacobs to Louis S. Bauman, 3 July 1929, McClain files. 
I3 Charles H. Ashman to Alva J. McClain, 5 November 1929, McClain files. 


would require a separate endowment from that of the college in order 
to comply with North Central Association rulings. He was concerned 
also that North Central would not accept any graduate degrees offered 
by the seminary. A week later, Jacobs wrote to W. S. Bell, endow- 
ment secretary of Ashland College, that there could not be two 
schools at Ashland with two separate faculties and two seats of 
potentially conflicting authority. 15 

The Ashland president also corresponded with Bauman about 
the importance of Ashland College. He wrote: "The Seminary is no 
more important that [sic] the Arts college for a church to try to live 
today apart from a College is as foolish as it is impossible." 16 He then 

I assume the attitude that both [college and seminary] are important. 
Mason, Anspach, DeLozier and other [sic] are as important to the 
future life of the church as the seminary teachers could possibly, [sic] if 
I may make a comparison. More than this, they are doing as much for 
the church as the seminary teachers, not in the same way, but as 
important and they must have equal consideration with the other 
departments of the school. 1 

He closed by declaring: "I hope I have not spoiled the day for you. I 
have not yet told you half. Still, may be prayer and faith, and good 
sense will prevail. At least I hope so." 18 Jacobs was concerned that 
failure to gain North Central accreditation would result in the loss of 
a number of the best and most qualified teachers at Ashland. He 
wrote about plans for a seminary: "If we can keep all we have gained 
through 50 years of toil and pain and then add to our work, then I 
should be heartily glad. But if we stand to lose more than we gain, 
then I should be rigorously opposed." He stated: "In Ohio there can 
be no school without NC recognition. All others are doomed. " 2C 

Mc Claim's View 

McClain was not concerned primarily with the same issues as 
Jacobs. Not being in the difficult position of the president, nor 
sharing his perspective on accreditation, he did not think as Jacobs 
did. For McClain, college training was no longer sufficient for pastors 
and a seminary must be built. 

4 Edwin E. Jacobs to W. S. Bell, 4 December 1929, copy, McClain files. 

Edwin E. Jacobs to W. S. Bell, 10 December 1929, copy, McClain files. 

Edwin E. Jacobs to Louis S. Bauman, 1 1 January 1930, McClain files. 
17 Ibid. 
18 Ibid. 

Edwin E. Jacobs to Alva J. McClain, 1 March 1930, McClain files. 



The best of our young men today are anxious to have an adequate 
theological education, which means that it must be graduate work for 
the most part. We are not at present providing for such education, and 
therefore must go elsewhere to get it. The years will prove this to be a 
disastrous policy for the Brethren Church. The College authorities 
should either provide for this advanced institution at the College, or 
else permit the Seminary to be established elsewhere. 21 

He added: 

The more I hear of the North Central the more I am convinced 
that if the Seminary is to remain on the College campus, it should be a 
separate school. With all the grief you are having with their dictation in 
College matters, why should we try to run a Seminary under their 
direction since the best interests of the Seminary do not require such 
jurisdiction? According to your letters, I do not think you would be 
sweating to secure the North Central recognition if the continued 
functioning of the College did not require it. Why should we drag the 
Seminary through the same trouble when it is unnecessary? 22 

For McClain, North Central approval was unimportant. 

The test of an adequate theological seminary is not some standard 
erected by a set of men who are antagonistic to historical Christianity, 
but rather this — Does our Seminary adequately prepare our men for 
the task to which they have given their lives? Namely, for the ministry 
of the Gospel in the Brethren Church. For this purpose, the approval 
of the North Central means precisely nothing. 

W. S. Bell, formerly McClain's pastor at Sunnyside, Washington, 
came to Long Beach and discussed the matter of a seminary. Accord- 
ing to McClain, talks with Bell resulted in three proposals: (1) that a 
standard seminary course be established at Ashland with three full- 
time teachers along with Miller, (2) that the seminary dean have full 
jurisdiction in seminary matters and (3) that McClain be called as 
seminary dean. 24 While Jacobs was expressing reservations about a 
seminary at Ashland, Bell was convinced that the college and semi- 
nary could not be maintained separately at the present time without 
the loss of the college and that "to preserve our educational work, we 
must pull together until such time as it may seem best and we are able 
to do otherwise." 25 Bell later wrote expressing hope that Bauman and 
McClain would meet with the board of trustees of the college on 

21 Alva J. McClain to Edwin E. Jacobs, no date, McClain files. 

22 Ibid. 

; 3 Ibid. 

" 4 Alva J. McClain to Kenneth M. Monroe, 23 February 1930, copy, McClain files. 

25 W. S. Bell to Alva. J. McClain, 4 March 1930, McClain files. 


April 22. By that time the North Central action, which did result in 
approval for accreditation, would be known. 

Mcclain's proposal for a seminary 

Unable to comply with the April 22 date, Bauman and McClain 
requested that the trustee meeting be rescheduled. The meeting was 
held on April 24, 1930. McClain gave a detailed presentation includ- 
ing the need for a seminary, reasons that the seminary should not be 
located at Ashland and some important conditions should a seminary 
be established on the Ashland campus. 

The Need for the Seminary 

The need for a seminary of the Brethren Church was based on 
the awareness of the need of graduate education for pastors. McClain 
raised the question: "If it is worthwhile to ask a young man to spend 
three years in intensive study in the field of biology to prepare for 
teaching that subject, is it asking too much to require three years of 
intensive study in the field of Christian Truth from those who expect 
to teach it? The preacher is not required to know everything, but at 
the very least we have a right to expect him to know his Bible. And it 
takes time and diligent application to attain this goal." 26 He ex- 
pressed a sense of urgency when he declared the need for a Brethren 
seminary education program. 

If we do not provide it, our best young men will go elsewhere to secure 
it. Some have already made application to enter other seminaries. No 
denomination can eventually succeed by a policy of training its mini- 
sters in the theological seminaries of other denominations. It may work 
in individual cases, but as a policy it means disaster. 27 

He supported his point by stating that no presently existent denomi- 
national seminary would give "our men training in the distinctive 
positions of the Brethren Church" and that seminaries which try to 
have a trans-denominational appeal "are careful to avoid any teach- 
ing which would antagonize their distinctive positions. But such an 
education is negative." 28 McClain averred: "It is not enough that our 
ministers are not deprived of their distinctive beliefs, but they should 
be confirmed in those beliefs and so fortified that they will be able to 
propagate them in competition with those of an opposite belief. This 

Alva J. McClain, "The Need for a Brethren Theological Seminary," presented to 
the Board of Trustees of Ashland College, Ashland, Ohio, 24 April 1930, McClain files, 
28 Ibid. 


can be done only in our own Seminary." He also saw the denomina- 
tional unity which could be realized through the influence of one 
seminary rather than the variety of voices of influence if pastors 
would come from a variety of institutions. His concluding point was 
worded carefully: 

Finally, the Brethren Church as a separate denomination is doomed 
without an adequately trained ministry which is enthusiastic for our 
message. Competition is keen, union is in the air, and modernism is 
dissolving all differences. It will do no good to point to what has been 
done in the past. The past is gone. The church must face the present 
situation. And when it comes to a correct diagnosis of the present need, 
the pastors who are on the firing line know more about it than anyone 
else. 30 

Concern about Location 

Concerning the site for the establishment of a seminary, McClain 
concluded that though there were advantages to having a seminary on 
a college campus, there were many disadvantages. A spiritual atmos- 
phere necessary for a seminary was not possible on an Arts college 
campus where seminary students were a minority. The denomina- 
tional thrust should be at the foreground of a seminary while such 
was not the case with an Arts college. Goals of an Arts college were 
often identified with material success while such was not to be the 
priority of seminarians. The matter of the distractions of a college 
campus and the different emphasis on social life, extra-curricular 
activities and chapel services also argued for two separate campuses. 
The seminary campus could uphold the Christian ministry as the 
supreme calling, something difficult in a college emphasizing a variety 
of professions. McClain was concerned also with possible deviations 
from seminary doctrines by the college faculty. "The case might be 
different if the theological professors were acknowledged as authori- 
ties within their own field, but strange to say almost every teacher 
seems to feel perfectly competent to speak dogmatically in matters of 
theology." 31 

McClain voiced a concern that he had stated in an earlier year 
when he reminded the trustees that seven years on the same campus 
were too many, especially when the campus was small. Students 
would yearn for a new location. Limitations on opportunities for 
practical application of seminary teaching existed in Ashland. There 

29 lbid. 
30 Ibid. 
Alva J. McClain, "The Location of the Seminary," presented to the Board of 
Trustees of Ashland College, Ashland, Ohio, 24 April 1930, McClain files. 


were also few opportunities for hearing leading preachers in Ashland. 
In addition to these concerns, McClain thought that the college 
"situation is demoralizing to the best interests of ministerial training 
in the Brethren Church." 32 

Conditions for a Seminary at Ashland 

In light of these difficulties, it seemed inappropriate for a semi- 
nary to share the Ashland campus. However, such a marriage of 
college and seminary could take place and certain conditions would 
assist to bring about a harmonious relationship. His suggestions in- 
cluded: (1) making the seminary department of the college a separate 
standard seminary, (2) establishing a faculty of at least four profes- 
sors, (3) investing the seminary dean with complete jurisdiction in 
seminary affairs similar to the authority of the president in the col- 
lege, (4) ranking seminary professors with a Th.M. on equal scholas- 
tic standing as Doctors in the college, (5) understanding that the 
arrangement of sharing the campus was "an experiment for the pres- 
ent," (6) planning for financial autonomy for the seminary, (7) pub- 
lishing an annual seminary catalogue and a seminary bulletin, and (8) 
establishing a seminary committee on the board of trustees with the 
seminary dean as an ex officio member. 

The Proposal Accepted 

McClain reported the decision that followed. "After considerable 
discussion of the proposals as set forth by Professor McClain, al- 
though there was some apparent hostility on the part of the college 
administration and its sympathizers on the board, nevertheless, with 
no dissenting vote, the proposed plan for the seminary as a graduate 
school of the college was approved by the trustees." 34 The newly 
accredited college was not ready to extend welcome arms to the 
seminary. The college was struggling financially and had just com- 
pleted an arduous and successful attempt for accreditation. There was 
fear that the seminary would tax school resources too greatly and 
possibly affect Ashland accreditation negatively. On the other hand, 
the existence of a Brethren seminary apart from the Ashland campus 
would rival it for the limited funds of the Brethren Church. 

McClain concluded that "the administration hesitated to consent 
to the establishment of the seminary elsewhere since it would attract 

32 lbid. 

33 Alva J. McClain, "Tentative Seminary Program," presented to the Board of 
Trustees of Ashland College, Ashland, Ohio, 24 April 1930, McClain files. 

34 McClain, "The Background and Origin of Grace Theological Seminary," 33. 


the financial support of the churches, most of which were more in- 
terested in training students for full-time Christian service than in 
merely supplementing the secular educational facilities already exist- 
ing in half a hundred other institutions in the State of Ohio." 35 
Though there were reservations in the minds of some Ashlanders 
about the existence of a seminary, it was concluded that if such a 
seminary were to exist, it must exist at Ashland. 


In the fall of 1930, Ashland Theological Seminary began its mini- 
stry with four students and a faculty of four. J. Allen Miller was 
listed as dean and as a teacher in the New Testament Department. 
McClain served officially as associate dean and professor in the 
Department of Theology and Christian Evidences as well as teaching 
some English Bible courses. Stuckey offered instruction in the Homi- 
letics and Practical Theology Department and Monroe served in the 
Department of Old Testament and Hebrew. The regular course of 
study consisted of at least ninety semester hours "of intensive study in 
strictly Biblical and theological subjects" leading to the Bachelor of 
Theology degree. 36 There was no tuition fee assessed to the student, 
and McClain anticipated the possibility of free dormitory accommo- 
dations. 37 A special student aid plan was devised in conjunction with 
Ashland College. 

For each year spent in the College preparing for the Seminary work, 
the student will have set aside to his credit the sum of one hundred 
dollars. Thus at the end of the four year College course the ministerial 
student will have accumulated a fund of four hundred dollars, and this 
money will be paid to the student in six equal payments during his 
three years in the seminary at Ashland. 38 

The fourfold emphasis of the school was "orthodox belief, spiritual 
living, thorough scholarship, and practical application." 39 

Emphasis at Ashland still was placed upon the college. Ashland 
trustee, George T. Ronk, argued for this point. 

Since we can only absorb three or four new men a year in the ranks of 
the ministry, it is apparent that we must consider the interests of one 

"Ibid., p. 18. 
Alva J. McClain, "The New Seminary Program," The Brethren Evangelist 52:22 
(31 May 1930)6. 
38 Ibid., 6-7. 
"Ibid., 7. 


hundred times as many of our young people, not preparing for the 
ministry. It is utterly futile to prepare highly trained Brethren ministers 
to preach to our congregations, then make no effort to hold the loyalty 
of the young people in the congregation who go into secular work by 
training them also in our college. For every student we make provision 
in our Theological Seminary, we have one hundred students, also 
Brethren young people, who must be prepared to meet the great issues 
of life by proper training in the atmosphere of a Christian college. 

The seminary enjoyed growth in its first years. Ten students 
enrolled in 1931 and eighteen in 1932, all but one being Brethren. The 
enrollment stabilized with twenty students in 1933, seventeen in 1934, 
eighteen in 1935 and twenty-four in 1936-37. 


McClain's Concerns 

Fears that McClain had expressed about locating the seminary in 
the college environment were realized. He later wrote of the "cool 
reception on the campus, and occasional open hostility." In his 
annual report to the Board of Trustees on April 25, 1933, McClain 
sought to evoke a concern about the difficult situation without making 
specific charges. 

Since the Church commits its ministerial students to the College for a 
period of four years (one year longer than the Seminary has them), a 
very grave responsibility rests upon the College teachers. Upon their 
own personal attitude will depend largely whether or not the student 
comes to the Seminary with his life purpose intact or seriously dam- 
aged. Does the teacher manifest a genuine enthusiasm for the Christian 
ministry as a high and divine calling? Does the student find out that 
this is so? Or is the attitude one of indifference and even tinged with 
hostility for "theologians?" Or does the teacher leave the whole matter 
studiously alone? Students, I would remind you, soon reflect the atti- 
tudes of their teachers in these manners. And the result may be tragic. 
One student may enter the Seminary with a listless purpose, while 
another comes with a violent antagonism toward College education. I 
think the Board should give some serious consideration to this matter. 
I have tried to present it as generally as possible. 43 

40 George T. Ronk, "The Ten- Year Forward Program for Ashland College," The 
Brethren Evangelist 52:22 (31 May 1930) 2. 

41 Herman A. Hoyt, "The Academic History of Grace Theological Seminary," in 
Charis: The History of Grace Theological Seminary, 1931-1951, ed. John Whitcomb 
(Winona Lake, IN: Grace Theological Seminary, 1951) 41. 

42 Alva J. McClain, "The Background and Origin of Grace Theological Seminary," 

43 Alva J. McClain, "Annual Report to the Board of Trustees at Ashland," 25 April 
1933, McClain files. 


In his concern about the seminary being located at Ashland, 
McClain had asserted that the chief emphasis of the seminary was 
spiritual whereas that of the college was intellectual. He stated: "An 
alumnus of the College receives special notice for scholarship, but not 
as a rule for the number of men won to Christ." 44 It must be 
remembered that McClain had attended a Bible institute (BIOLA) 
and had graduated as valedictorian of his class at a liberal arts college 
(Occidental). It had been his desire to have a seminary where a Bible 
institute atmosphere prevailed. That was not the situation at Ashland. 

McClain also was concerned about doctrinal deviation. Students 
were reporting some of the disturbing statements made by college 
faculty members. Homer A. Kent, Sr., remembered a conversation 
concerning "questions that were put to him by one young man from 
his church who was greatly disturbed by some things to which he had 
listened in the classrooms at Ashland." 45 Herman Hoyt described his 
experiences as a student at Ashland College: 

Upon entering the sophomore year of study, I was almost sub- 
merged in what I call unbelief. In the psychology class the professor 
demanded that the Bible be excluded from the room, whereupon he 
proceeded to openly deny any supernatural reality to the new birth, 
saying that every man comes to a place in life where he turns over a 
new leaf. The professor of zoology sneeringly mocked at the words in 
Lev. 17:11 which say that the life of the flesh is in the blood. Upon 
another occasion, he flaunted the words of Christ in John 10:10 where 
Christ declared that He came to give life and give it more abundantly. 46 

Charges were registered about the teaching of evolution, though there 
is debate as to whether evolution was espoused by faculty members or 
simply presented as one theory of science. 

Call for a Doctrinal Statement 

McClain took steps to help create the atmosphere he thought 
was necessary. Having been involved previously in the writing of the 
"Message of the Brethren Ministry" to which subscription was made 
by the ministerium, McClain proposed to the board "the adoption of 
an official statement of faith as a standard by which the fitness of 

Alva J. McClain, "The Location of the Seminary," presented to the Board of 
Trustees of Ashland College, Ashland, Ohio, 24 April 1930, McClain files. 

45 Homer A. Kent, Sr., Conquering Frontiers (Winona Lake, IN: BMH Books, 
1972) 140-41. 

46 Herman A. Hoyt, "A Personal Testimony and an Explanation," The Brethren 
Evangelist 61:14 (8 April 1939) 15. 

Dennis Martin, "Ashland College Versus Ashland Seminary (1921-37) Prelude 
to Schism," Brethren Life and Thought 21 (Winter 1976) 43-44, 49. 


teachers could be determined." 48 This proposal was not received well 
by the administration but the trustees established a committee for the 
purpose of drafting a doctrinal statement. McClain wrote the original 
statement for committee consideration. It covered "fundamental 
Christian doctrines held in common by most evangelical believers, 
but omitting the distinctive doctrines of the Brethren denomination 
because at least half the college faculty were members of other 
denominations." The seven points of the proposal pertained to 
Scripture, person of God, person and work of Christ, person and 
work of the Holy Spirit, man, salvation and Christian character and 
conduct. McClain recollected: 

The adoption of the "statement" was bitterly fought by the college 
officials, but when it became evident that it would pass, the president 
agreed to accept it and guarantee its adoption by the faculty if the 
board would not require each teacher to sign it. The hour was late, the 
members were tired, and the compromise was accepted. 

While the Seminary published the statement of faith in its annual 
catalogues beginning in 1933, the college catalogue did not include it. 
The college faculty had passed a motion adopting the confessional 
statement but the majority of its members did not vote. 51 It could be 
expected that Jacobs would not be positive toward the doctrinal 
standard because "he was in accord with the traditional Brethren 
antipathy to creeds." 52 A confrontation existed in which each of the 
two parties considered its position best for the church: the one opting 
for the Brethren heritage of non-subscription to creeds, represented 
by Jacobs, and the other the product of the theological turmoil of the 
modernist-fundamentalist conflict and calling for adherence to a doc- 
trinal statement in order to maintain orthodoxy in the church. The 
seminary faculty reflected the latter approach. 

Administration Tension 

In 1934, many problems existed at Ashland. The Ashland Times- 
Gazette of April 25 reported on page one: 

Dr. E. E. Jacobs was again chosen president of Ashland College 
by members of the board of trustees last night. He resigned as presi- 
dent and asked the board to elect Dr. C. L. Anspach, dean at Michigan 

8 McClain, "The Background and Origin of Grace Theological Seminary," 21. 




2 Martin, "Ashland College Versus Ashland Seminary," 43. 


State Teachers College, who refused to accept the position. Following 
Dr. Anspach's refusal, Dr. Jacobs was reelected head of the institution. 

Reference is made in the newspaper article to the trustees' failure to 
take action "on a student request that 'a more extensive social program 
be outlined which shall include college dances, properly chaperoned 
by members of the faculty.'" The report continues: 

A third plank in the student program that "more definite lines of 
cleavage be drawn between the arts college and the seminary" was not 
fully settled. Instead of a greater difference between the two depart- 
ments, Dr. Jacobs believes that a greater union will help solve the 
problem. The graduate seminary students take no part in student 
activities, Dr. Jacobs said. The question of control of student activities 
is between students in the arts college and preseminary students, who 
are in the minority. The arts college majority, it is believed, can take 
control of student activities without action by any board. 

The McClain perspective was summarized: "Among the college stu- 
dents there was much discontent, many preseminary students being 
disturbed by anti-Biblical attitudes in certain classrooms; while on the 
other hand the worldly majority were clamoring for greater liberty 
than allowed by the somewhat feeble rules." 53 Jacobs, apparently 
growing weary of complaints from McClain, wrote to his seminary 

I note that you find some criticism about the Arts College but I 
want to assure you that I have made as many apologies for the 
Seminary as you possibly could have made for the College. 

The Seminary is by no means above criticism. 

There is a grwoig [sic] feeling on the part of a good many good 
people that the Arts college should not at all be dominated by the 
teachings of the Seminary and I am of the opinion that the NC [North 
Central Association] will recommend that the two organizations be 
further separated. 

I am as tired of apologizing for the Seminary as you could pos- 
sibly be for the Arts College. 

So far as the teachers are concerned, I shall do the best I can but I 
will not promise anyone that I will only employ those on which 
everyone may agree, as I have already found that to be impossible. 

You are no more interest [sic] in the institution than I so no one 
need have any concern about my integrity or sincerety [sic]. That has 
been demonstrated long before the seminary was here. 54 

53 McClain, "The Background and Origin of Grace Theological Seminary," 22. 
54 Edwin E. Jacobs to Alva J. McClain, 21 May 1934, McClain files. 


An undated copy of a letter to the president and board of deans from 
"Members of the Graduate School of Theology" expressed what that 
group felt to be the answer to the college students desirous of campus 

We would recommend the correction of this evil by the inaugura- 
tion of a definite evangelistic and soul-winning campaign. Feeling that 
only the Spirit of God can ultimately solve this problem, we suggest 
that one of America's leading evangelists and Bible scholars be brought 
into this place where he is so greatly needed. It is our ardent desire that 
you as the administrative body of this institution will feel constrained 
to take whatever steps may be necessary to deal effectively with the 
tendency toward unchristian amusements, and to this end make definite 
plans, in the near future, for a campaign on the campus having as its 
objective the deepening of the spiritual life and the winning of souls for 
Christ. 55 


Possibly wearied by the conflict and by the financial problems 
resulting from the economic depression, Jacobs resigned the presi- 
dency in 1935 and Charles Anspach accepted the position. McClain 
saw a bright ray of hope in this appointment. Anspach had written to 
the seminary dean sharing concerns about Ashland College. 

Dr. Jacobs seems to have had a change of heart now that the time 
is here for him to leave. He doesn't want to leave but wants to stay if I 
come back. We discussed all angles of the situation and I told him 
plainly what the future of the institution was to be if all groups agreed 
to my program. 1 told him that if stayed [sic] he must consider the fact 
that we would reorganize with a strong tendency toward the Wheaton 
viewpoint. I told him I thought in that direction there was hope and 
none in the direction of liberalism. I wanted him to see that we 
intended to do certain things and that he might not be happy in such 
an institution. As a result of the conference we came to the following 

1. He will resign at the next meeting of the board. 

2. He is not to teach his classes in such a manner as to embarrass the 
seminary. I told him that he could not go on saying things which would 
cause us embarrassment with the seminary and the church. He admitted 
that he said things he had no business to say and that he would hold his 

""Members of the Graduate School of Theology to the President and the Board 
of Deans — Ashland College," no date, copy, McClain files. 


3. I told him that the statement of faith would be printed in the next 
catalogue. He agreed. 

4. I told him we would reorganize with the Wheaton viewpoint. 

5. I told him we expect to contact conservative men in all denominations. 56 

Anspach, in turn, agreed that Jacobs be given the title of president 
emeritus with the salary of a dean. He was to have a semester leave of 
absence when possible and have a permanent position with the under- 
standing that he would do nothing to embarrass the institution. 57 
McClain responded with a declaration of agreement with Anspach's 
general policy. He had reservations about the arrangement made with 
Jacobs, stating that it was his "conviction that we shall find in the 
Church a rather widespread opposition to his staying here under any 
terms." 58 However, McClain was willing to bow to the wishes of 
Anspach in the matter. 

At the board meeting in 1935 at which Anspach was appointed 
president, a second appointment of importance was made. Herman 
A. Hoyt was named professor of New Testament and Greek, taking 
the position left empty as a result of the death of J. Allen Miller. 
McClain's report to the board at the 1935 meeting was specific in 
stating what he perceived to be problems in the college which were in 
need of correction. 

The baneful influence of fraternities which have been permitted to 
grow up without any semblance of control. 

Faculty worldliness, including addiction to cigarets [sic], cards and 

Tolerance toward smoking and dancing by the students and arous- 
ing antagonism among such students by shifting all responsibility for 
rules upon the Board of Trustees. 

Drinking and public drunkeness [sic] among students, with no 
apparent serious attempts to investigate thoroughly and discipline. 

Contemptuous attitude toward the church and its ministry, with 
attempts to influence men away from preparation for the ministry. 

Questioning the truths of Christianity, and the teaching of the 
dogma of evolutionism. 

Systematic denunciation of the Seminary as being responsible for 
the difficulties here, the reduction in teachers' salaries, the existence of 
disliked rules of conduct, etc. 

Attempts to discredit the character of the Seminary work by 
claiming to students that it has "no academic value." 

C. L. Anspach to Alva J. McClain, 11 February, 1935, McClain files. 
7 Ibid. 
8 Alva J. McClain to Charles L. Anspach, 15 February 1925, copy, McClain files. 


Spreading reports throughout the community that the Seminary 
teachers are trouble-makers, disloyal, and leaders of a faction which is 
opposed to the college, as such. 59 

Difficult as these circumstances were for McClain, what he called 
the "most serious blow" was the forbidding of Seminary teachers to 
give instruction in any Bible classes in the college, thus closing some 
courses. It was communicated to McClain that North Central author- 
ities required the move, which statement proved to be without sub- 
stance. Also stopped was the practice of allowing college students to 
take Bible classes in the seminary for college credit. McClain took the 
matter as a personal slap. 

The only reason I have been able to get for this absurd action, apart 
from the North Central story, was that neither Professors Monroe and 
Stuckey nor myself were academically fitted to teach even a freshman 
Bible class. I need not tell you that it is highly unpleasant to work in an 
institution where one is under a complete academic ban. 

On the other hand, McClain reported to the board that the seminary 
faculty was convinced that the situation would be improved greatly 
under the new president. Anspach's proposed program was one "we 
have believed in and prayed for through the years of our association 
with it [Ashland]." He continued: 

And I would like to add the every difficulty that has ever arisen 
between Seminary and College administration has had to do, either 
directly or indirectly, with Christian Faith and life. No other problem 
exists. Our battle is not over men, but over truth. We do not hate men; 
we do hate untruth and error. And we do not propose to surrender 
when it arises. If you expect us to, do not ask us to remain here. 61 


Presidential Actions 

The optimism entertained by McClain and the seminary faculty 
was dashed quickly. Anspach's inauguration included speakers alleged 
by the seminary faculty to be modernists. The president opposed a 
campaign formulated by pre-seminary students to distribute tracts on 
the school campus. At the 1936 board meeting, Anspach proposed 

" Alva J. McClain, "Report of the Dean of the Seminary to the Board of Trustees," 
Ashland College, Ashland, Ohio, May 1935, McClain files. 
60 Ibid. 
61 Ibid. 


two standards of conduct: one, more restrictive, for the seminary and 
a second group of standards allowing more latitude in social activities 
for the majority of the Ashland campus. 62 McClain concluded: 

No president ever began his administration at Ashland College 
with so complete a united support of his church constituency, or with 
such unreserved approval for his avowed program. Yet within a few 
months the new president's almost cynical violation of his solemn 
promises had precipitated a conflict which virtually wrecked the semi- 
nary at Ashland, lost to the college at least half its church constituency, 
and led to division of Brethren churches into two national conferences. 
To be sure, one man by himself could not have done all of this. There 
had been existing differences, some trivial, and others more serious, but 
none that could not have been handled without such far-reaching 
results if the actions of Dr. Anspach had been tempered with more 
wisdom and good will. 63 

Anspach proposed to the board of trustees a plan for increasing 
its membership from thirty-six to forty-two members. The six mem- 
bers to be added were to be drawn from non-Brethren sources. The 
proposal included a stipulation that not more than a third of the 
board membership could be drawn from any one particular pro- 
fession, "a provision which the seminary faction interpreted as aimed 
at the ministers who make up half of the Board's membership." 
Dennis Martin has stated: 


But by far the most far-reaching change concerned the selection of 
all the trustees. Until 1927 thirty-three trustees had been nominated by 
the district conferences and elected by the Board. In that year the 
Board amended the procedure to permit direct election by the district 
conferences. Anspach now pointed out that this procedure was con- 
trary to the college charter and proposed a new constitution which 
would firmly anchor the pre- 1927 procedure. The Board would now 
elect its new membership from district nominations and become self- 
perpetuating. 65 

Denominational Response 

Two members of the Board of Trustees, Louis S. Bauman and 
Charles A. Ashman, both from Southern California, resigned over 
the issue of the "double standard" of conduct for students. News of 

McClain, "The Background and Origin of Grace Theological Seminary," 25. 
3 Ibid., p. 24. 

4 Martin, "Ashland College Versus Ashland Seminary," 45. 
5 Ibid., 45-46. 


the events of the board meeting soon reached the Southern California 
district. The result was a very long letter dated June 16, 1936, from 
The Ministerial Board of Southern California calling for Anspach to 
explain his attitudes and actions at the board meeting. A reply was 
expected by June 27. Anspach was involved with district conferences 
in Ohio and Indiana which made it impossible for the reply sought. 
The Ashland president wrote Paul Bauman, secretary of the Southern 
California ministerium. 

I have gone through your statement very carefully and if my 
motives are as bad as the report would indicate, you have every reason 
to be concerned about me. I assure you, however, that I am not as bad 
as the report might indicate. 

After giving the matter considerable thought, I believe it would be 
inadvisable to try to handle the matter by correspondence, for corres- 
pondence at long range in the clarification of interpretation is exceed- 
ingly difficult. Inasmuch as we are all interested in clarification of 
viewpoints, it is my suggestion that if my statement in the EVAN- 
GELIST is insufficient, that a group of your men meet with a group of 
Board and Faculty members and go over the entire matter. Such a 
meeting, I believe, would eliminate much of the present misunder- 

Anspach's explanation in The Brethren Evangelist contained informa- 
tion that purposed to show the difficulty of enforcing a rigid code 

The college shall encourage that type of behavior which shall be in 
conformity with Christian standards. It does not permit on campus, 
dancing, card playing, smoking, etc., and discourages such practice off 
campus. It does now, however, pledge all students to refrain from such 
practices off campus, as a condition of entrance. Sixty-five percent of 
our students live within twenty-five miles of the college and approxi- 
mately fifty percent live in their own homes. Under such circumstances 
we cannot require that all students live the completely separated life. 67 

Due to Anspach's failure to reply to the pastors as requested, the 
Southern California body printed the letter and distributed it through- 
out the churches under the date of July 31, 1936. 6 Kent records the 

C. L. Anspach to Paul R. Bauman, 25 June 1936, copy, McClain files. 
C. L. Anspach, "A Statement Relative to Ashland College," The Brethren 
Evangelist 58:25 (27 June 1936) 15. 

Kent, Conquering Frontiers, 146. 


The public revelation of the letter acted as a bombshell, rocking the 
Brotherhood from coast to coast. Viewpoints were quickly formed. 
Animosities were aroused. Articles on both sides of the question began 
to appear in the Brethren Evangelist. 69 

The General Conference of the denomination began its annual 
meeting on August 24. Albert T. Ronk wrote: "Never had the general 
annual gathering of the Brethren Church been more agog — more 
tense than this 1936 conclave. The 'Open Letter' from Southern 
California had out-fire-branded Samson's foxes and its authors were 
present to add faggots to the fire." He also summarized conference 

A series of motions passed the floor of the disturbed assembly. — 
(1) That Ashland College charter be read to the Conference. (2) That a 
committee of seven be created "to thoroughly investigate the condition 
which is causing the disturbance at this conference." (3) That the 
conference disapprove the proposed amendment of the College Trustees 
to increase their membership to 42 by adding six. (4) That the ""Con- 
ference table the motion to vote confidence in President Dr. Chas. 
Anspach and the entire administration of Ashland College. 

The investigating committee membership consisted of R. D. 
Barnard, C. A. Stewart, William H. Schaffer, Jr., Roy Patterson, 
R. F. Porte, H. V. Wall and E. H. Wolfe. Barnard was made chair- 
man. In October, Anspach wrote to Barnard informing him that the 
investigating body must await an invitation from the Board of Trus- 
tees before it could visit the campus and that the trustees would not 
meet until March or April. 72 Barnard sent a letter to members an- 
nouncing his resignation due to his lack of optimism regarding the 
possibility of the committee accomplishing its task. 73 Patterson also 
resigned. Wall was a member of the Ashland board and, therefore, 
could not serve very well as an investigator. Porte, Stewart and Wolfe 
did not participate in the investigation. Schaffer alone attended the 
June 1, 1937, meeting of the board which made decisions that had not 
been anticipated and which would rock the church. 

by lbid. 

Albert T. Ronk, History of the Brethren Church (Ashland, OH: Brethren Pub. 
Co., 1968)420. 

7, Ibid. 

72 C. L. Anspach to W. [sic] D. Barnard, 2 October 1936, Barnard files, Morgan 
Library, Grace Schools, Winona Lake, Indiana. 

73 R. D. Barnard to "To Whom It May Concern," 12 February 1937, Barnard files. 



Faculty Confrontation 

Early in 1937 a confrontation had taken place on the Ashland 
faculty concerning the proposal of certain regulations to govern that 
body. McClain reported the events: 

This code provided, among other things, that "a member of the teach- 
ing staff may be dismissed . . . for inefficiency or neglect of academic 
duty, immorality, or conduct unbecoming to a gentleman." Dean 
McClain moved the addition of another cause for dismissal, namely, 
"for teaching anything contrary to the college Statement of Faith." 
This motion was quickly defeated by a loud chorus of "No's." Pointing 
out the seriousness of this action, Dean McClain asked that his own 
affirmative vote be made a matter of record. Prof. Herman Hoyt made 
the same request. Someone moved that all the votes be so recorded, 
but the motion was overwhelmingly defeated. At this point the late Dr. 
L. L. Garber, no mean parliamentarian, informed the chairman that 
anyone could demand a roll-call vote. Instantly Professor Hoyt made 
the demand, and the roll call began. It happened so quickly that the 
opposition had no time to collect its wits, and the chairman simply 
moved with the tide. Otherwise the issue might never have come to a 
clean-cut public decision, as it did, with no escape for anyone. 

The second name called in alphabetical order was that of the presi- 
dent himself. Dr. Anspach made an angry speech against the application 
of the college Statement of Faith and voted an emphatic "No," after 
which there was no longer any uncertainty as to the safe way to vote. 
When the vote was finished, only/i've votes were recorded as favoring 
the application of the Statement of Faith. Three of the votes were cast 
by the Seminary teachers — Hoyt, McClain. and Stuckey. 

Board Action 

When the board convened it followed the plan of electing its own 
members rather than receiving appointees from the various districts. 
Ashman and Bauman, having resigned membership the previous year, 
returned as representatives from Southern California. The board 
chose two other men and refused to seat Ashman and Bauman. 

McClain presented his report as dean of the seminary. He re- 
minded the trustees of his 1930 report in which he had given reasons 
why it would be unwise to locate the proposed seminary on the 
college campus. He stated that the reasons given at that time re- 
mained valid and that the experiment had not worked well. 75 He 

McClain, "The Background and Origin of Grace Theological Seminary," 26. 
5 Ibid., 28. 


recommended the seminary be separated from the college, that en- 
dowment funds be divided between the schools and that the seminary 
library be removed from the college. 76 

With Schaffer in attendance the board convened in executive 
session. Twenty-two board members were present. A report of an 
investigative committee of the board which had been appointed to 
look into Ashland affairs at the request of college faculty members 
was presented. 

We your Committee for Investigation, appointed by President 
Duker, beg leave to report as follows: 

Your committee met on May 29 and May 31, 1937, receiving a fair 
proportion of the members of the arts and seminary faculties, and were 
greeted with a uniformly fine spirit of co-operation: 

Your committee made notes setting forth the viewpoint of each 
regarding the situation at hand and its solution. 

From this investigation and these interviews we have reached the 
conclusion that the situation cannot be solved by the continuance of 
the present personnel of the faculties. Therefore we recommend: 

That the president of the college be instructed to secure by resigna- 
tion or dismissal the elimination of Professors Alva J. McClain and 
Herman Hoyt from the seminary faculty, because of a continued lack 
of the harmony and co-operation between the arts college and semi- 
nary, which are essential to the success of the institution. 

After a time of discussion in which each board member was 
allowed to voice an opinion, a nineteen to three vote in favor of the 
recommendation was registered. The board members had heard 
McClain's report calling for a separation of the schools and came to 
the conclusion that "owing to relatively small resources of the college 
it would be folly to divide the funds and separate the institution." 78 A 
later report of the board members gave their interpretation of the 

The two professors declared themselves to be incompatible with the 
Arts College Faculty, but declared there was no personal ill-will prevent- 
ing the fellowship of these Brethren; however, they declared it was no 
longer possible to continue in status quo. One of these professors de- 
clared the Board was faced with the responsibility of eliminating either 
twenty men or two. Since these two men were also in a spirit of rebellion 

76 "Report of the Dean of the Seminary," The Brethren Evangelist 59:30 (31 July 
1937) 17. 

""Report of the Board Investigating Committee," The Brethren Evangelist 59:30 
(31 July 1937): 17; cf. "Editorial Notes and News," The Brethren Evangelist 59:24 
(12 June 1937)4. 

78 Ibid. 


against the administration and the great majority of the Board, there was 
no other course except to demand their resignation .... 

Letters dated June 3, 1937, were sent to McClain and Hoyt to 
inform them officially of the board action. Heeding the suggestion 
of L. S. Bauman, the two professors refused to resign so as not to 
give Ashland the opportunity of saying that the men had left on their 
own accord. If an explanation were to be necessary, the burden 
would be upon Ashland. 81 McClain and Hoyt responded in like 
manner: "Replying to your demand dated June 3, 1937, I decline to 
submit my resignation, preferring rather, if I must, to leave this 
institution by your threatened alternative of dismissal." 82 Letters of 
dismissal were sent on June 4 along with a copy of the board 
resolution calling for that action. 


Initial Plans 

Aware of the board action prior to the official notice, McClain 
and Hoyt had met at the home of J. C. Beal on the night of June 2. 
McClain described the momentous occasion. 

In his home that night were gathered some of the conservative 
minority from the college board, members of the foreign missionary 
board which had been meeting at the same time, a few nearby pastors, 
and also representative students from both college and seminary. There 
was not much discussion, but there seemed to be general agreement 
that some provision should be made for the perpetuation of the ideals 
and faith of the seminary which had been founded 7 years before, and 
also to care for the students who were already saying they could never 
return to the Ashland campus. 

Without any human leader, the brethren went to their knees in 
prayer. When they rose, the late Dr. L. S. Bauman took out his pen, 
wrote a personal check, and said, "I want to give the first gift to the 
new school." Someone suggested that a paper be circulated for the 

"Trustee Committee Reply to Statement of Cal. 1938," in Ronk, History of the 
Brethren Church, 423. 

°C. L. Anspach to Alva J. McClain, 3 June 1937, McClain files; C. L. Anspach to 
Herman A. Hoyt, 3 June 1937, Hoyt files, Morgan Library, Grace Schools, Winona 
Lake, Indiana. 

Interview with Herman A. Hoyt, 17 April 1986. 

"Alva J. McClain to C. L. Anspach, 3 June 1937, copy, McClain files; cf. Herman 
A. Hoyt to C. L. Anspach, 3 June 1937, copy, Hoyt files. 

83 C. L. Anspach to Alva J. McClain, 4 June 1937, McClain files; C. L. Anspach to 
Herman A. Hoyt, 4 June 1937, Hoyt files. 


signatures of all present who desired to work and pray for such a 
school. 84 

All of the persons in attendance, with the exception of Professor 
Stuckey who wished first to ascertain his status at the college, signed 
the commitment. Out of this meeting came the formation of "The 
Brethren Biblical Seminary Association" which would give birth to 
Grace Theological Seminary. 

Denominational Division 

At the annual conference of 1937, Schaffer presented the report 
of the investigating committee. The delegates heard charges that the 
Ashland board had adopted a proposal to change the constitution of 
the college regarding the method of selecting trustees, an action 
interpreted as wresting control of the college from the church. 85 They 
also were confronted with the declaration that responses to a ques- 
tionnaire sent out by Schaffer to former Ashland College students 
included testimonies of men losing their desire for further study for 
the ministry and being encouraged "to enter a more remunerative 
occupation." 86 The survey included accusations of theological indif- 
ference and antagonism to certain doctrines. 

Two professors openly denied the Virgin Birth of Jesus Christ. One 
professor openly ridiculed the Doctrine of the Blood Atonement. One 
professor upheld the scriptures one day and denied them the next but 
on the whole was not sympathetic to the Christian ministry and denied 
many of the Biblical statements dealing with origins. One professor 
worships at the throne of modernism. Several professors believe in 
salvation by good works or the "golden rule." One professor denied the 
New Birth. One professor mocks the Second Coming of our Lord and 
prophecy in general. One professor doubts life after death and the 
resurrection body of the believer. 87 

Schaffer was aware of criticism of using student testimony as an 
accurate representation of the true convictions of the Ashland College 

We, however, are aware of the opinion that the most important thing 
between a teacher and a pupil is the impression the teacher leaves upon 

*Alva J. McClain, "The Background and Origin of Grace Theological Seminary,' 


"Report of the National Conference Committee on Investigation of Ashland 
College," 25 August 1937, McClain files. 
86 Ibid. 
87 Ibid. 


that pupil. If the teacher declares he or she has been misrepresented in 
these statements, how does he account for the fact that all these 
statements are signed by men and women who either directly or indi- 
rectly heard them. 

Years later Schaffer continued to stand by his argument that the 
students reflected the impressions made by the teachers. He did not 
think it necessary to confront professors personally with the charges 
and said: "They may deny it." A questionnaire circulated by sup- 
porters of Ashland show results very different from those of Schaffer's 
research. In the Ashland survey, seminary students were declared to 
be the cause of problems due to their attitude of superiority, resulting 
in disharmony and bitterness. 

The report of the investigating committee was signed by Schaffer, 
Stewart, Porte, Wolfe and Wall. Stewart and Porte had second 
thoughts and did not wish for their signatures to represent agreement 
with the findings. According to McClain, a motion was made not to 
accept the report and the vote was 263 for the negative motion and 
275 against it. However, a two-thirds vote was necessary for accep- 
tance and it was clear that such would not be possible so no further 
vote was taken. 91 It was evident that there was a definite division in 
the ranks. A rally was held on one evening during the conference at 
which approximately five hundred persons interested in a new semi- 
nary were in attendance. A denomination which could not afford to 
support two seminaries was about to find itself in that very situation. 


Seven years of turmoil over issues such as evolution, Christian 
life and liberty, soteriology and philosophy of education had served 
to divide Ashland College and Seminary. In an effort to bring har- 
mony to the campus, the Ashland Board of Trustees took the extreme 
step of dismissing the seminary dean and his closest associate. Peace 
came to the Ashland campus while Alva J. McClain and Herman A. 
Hoyt, in association with other like-minded Brethren leaders, formed 
a new seminary to carry the banner for their position, a step which 
resulted in the division of the domination in 1939. 

S8 Ibid. 

89 William H. Schaffer, "History — Grace Seminary," tape presentation, no date, 
Grace Schools, Winona Lake, Indiana. 

90 "Survey of Student Opinion of Religious Teaching at Ashland College," Ash- 
land, Ohio, no date, McClain files. 

91 McClain, "The Background and Origin of Grace Theological Seminary," 31. 

Grace Theological Journal 9.2 (1988) 233-256 




James L. Boyer 

Relative clauses form one of the two main forms of subordinate 
clauses in NT Greek. Relative clauses may function adjectivally, 
nominally, or adverbially. A special use of the relative clause is found 
in alternating clauses connected by usv and 5s. A relative clause is 
introduced by a relative pronoun that relates the clause to an ante- 
cedent. Generally, the relative agrees with the antecedent in gender 
and number, but its case is determined by its function in its own 
clause. Examination of its use in the NT, however, reveals several 
categories of exceptions to this general rule. The use of moods in 
relative clauses is governed by the same principles as those in effect 
for independent clauses. Generally, there is little confusion over the 
use of relative pronouns and their antecedents. However, there are a 
few problem passages (e.g., Matt 26:50; 2 Pet 1:4; 3:6; and 1 John 3:20). 


Structurally there are two main forms of subordinate clauses in 
NT Greek: those introduced by relatives and those by conjunc- 
tions. The relative clauses are the subject of this article. 1 

A relative clause is introduced by a relative word, either a rela- 
tive pronoun or adjective or adverb. The statement made by the 

Statistical information used in the preparation of this article was generated using 
GRAMCORD, a computer-based grammatical concordance of the Greek NT (see my 
article, "Project Gramcord: A Report," GTJ 1 [1980] 97-99). The present article is part 
of the following series of my articles based on GRAMCORD published in GTJ: "First 
Class Conditions: What Do They Mean?" GTJ 2 (1981) 75-114; "Second Class Con- 
ditions in New Testament Greek," GTJ 3 (1982) 81-88; "Third (and Fourth) Class 
Conditions," GTJ 3 (1982) 163-75; "Other Conditional Elements in New Testament 
Greek," GTJ 4 (1983) 173-88; "The Classification of Participles: A Statistical Study," 
GTJ 5 (1984) 163-79; "The Classification of Infinitives: A Statistical Study," GTJ 6 


relative clause might stand alone as an independent sentence, but the 
speaker chooses to "relate" it subordinately to some noun or other 
substantival expression in the main clause by using a special relative 
word for that purpose. The element to which it is related is called the 

The relative pronouns that will be under consideration in this 
study are the regular relative, 6c;, fj, 6, the indefinite relative oaxic,, 
f|xic;, 6 xi, the correlatives oooc,, oloc,, bnoloq, and fJAiKoc;. The last 
four sometimes also function adjectivally and the last only as an 
adjective. Clauses introduced by relative adverbs could also be in- 
cluded in a study of relative clauses, but they are sufficiently distinc- 
tive to merit separate consideration as adverbial clauses." However, 
those clauses introduced by an adverbial phrase that incorporates the 
relative pronoun (such as dv6' tiw or sco<; ou) will be included here 
since they involve a relative pronoun directly. 3 


Clauses may be analyzed on the bases of structure (main, coor- 
dinate, or subordinate), grammatical function (nominal, adjectival, or 
adverbial), and semantical function. Relative clauses are subordinate 
and may function in any of the grammatical categories listed. Seman- 
tically, relative clauses may be classified as temporal, conditional, 
causal, modal (manner), purpose, or result. 

Adjectival Relative Clauses 

The primary, basic significance of the relative clause is adjectival. 
In a sense all relative clauses are adjectival. Like the substantive use 
of an adjective, a relative clause by the omission of the antecedent can 
become a substantive or noun clause. And by association with various 
words and with prepositions the adjective may become adverbial. But 

(1985) 29-48; "The Classification of Subjunctives: A Statistical Study," GTJ 7 (1986) 
3-19; "A Classification of Imperatives: A Statistical Study," GTJ $ (1987) 35-54; and 
"The Classification of Optatives A Statistical Study," GTJ 9 (1988) 129-40. Infor- 
mational materials and listings generated in the preparation of this article may be 
found in my "Supplemental Manual of Information: Relative Clauses" (available 
through interlibrary loan from the Morgan Library, Grace Theological Seminary, 200 
Seminary Drive, Winona Lake, IN 46590). Information about GRAMCORD is avail- 
able through my co-developer Paul R. Miller, Project GRAMCORD, 18897 Deerpath 
Road, Wildwood, IL 60030. 

I plan to undertake a statistical study of adverbial clauses in the future. 
3 There is one use of the relative pronoun that does not always involve a clause, 
and thus does not fall strictly within the scope indicated by the title of this paper. 
However, since it usually does so, it will be included. See "The Alternating Use of the 
Relative," below. 


the true adjectival use is by far the most frequent (1079 [64%] out of 

Adjectival relative clauses may be descriptive or restrictive (identi- 
fying), just as other adjectives. Adjectival clauses are descriptive when 
they ascribe a quality or attribute to the antecedent, and restrictive 
when they define or identify the antecedent. The two categories are 
not mutually exclusive, and they may overlap, requiring subjective 
judgment on the part of the interpreter. For example, etj t\c, sysvvf|0r| 
'Ir|O"o0(; = 'from whom Jesus was born' (Matt 1:16) could be describ- 
ing Mary as Jesus' mother, or it could be distinguishing her from 
others of the same name (i.e., the Mary who bore Jesus). The context 
seems to suggest the descriptive sense. But in spite of the subjectivity, 
the distinction is real and useful. In Matt 2:6 the sense is clearly 
descriptive ("a Ruler, who will shepherd My people Israel"). In Matt 
2:9 the relative clause is clearly restrictive ("the star, which they had 
seen in the East"). There are, based on my judgment, 225 descriptive 
and 432 restrictive relative clauses in the NT). 5 

Another category needs to be recognized which goes beyond the 
functions of regular adjectives. Blass, in his treatment of sentence 
structure, speaks of two types of Greek prose; the periodic style, 
characterized by artistically developed prose, and the running or 
continuous style, characterized by plain and unsophisticated language. 
The running style is found in two patterns. One pattern has a series of 
separate sentences, usually connected by Kai. The other pattern ex- 
tends the first statement by means of participial phrases, clauses 
introduced by on, or relative clauses. Blass defines this 'Relative 
Connective' as "a loosening of the connection of the relative clause to 
the preceding complex sentence; something intermediate between a 
relative clause and a demonstrative clause: 6<; = and this, but this, 
this very thing." 6 

The relative connective use of the relative clause becomes quite 
obvious when modern speech English versions of the NT are com- 
pared with older translations that follow the grammar of the Greek. 
Long sentences are broken down into many shorter ones in con- 
formity to modern style. In many instances the break occurs where 
the Greek has a relative. For example, Paul's "long sentence," Eph 
1:4-14, is divided by the KJV into three sentences; the last two 
sentences open with a relative clause. The NASB and the NIV break 
it into six sentences; after the first sentence all but two breaks come at 

4 Translations will be given from the NASB unless otherwise stated. 
5 Lists of these and many other helpful details which cannot be included in this 
article are available in the supplementary manual listed in n. 1. 
6 BDF, 239. 


a relative. Even the Nestle 26 Greek text divides the passage into four 
sentences; after the opening one each begins with a relative. 

Another indication that the Greek relative serves as a connective 
is seen in an examination of the ways in which the NASB, which 
follows the Greek syntax more closely than other modern versions, 
translates the relative in the NT. In approximately 10% of all occur- 
rences (160 out of 1680) it translates the relative by using a personal 
or demonstrative pronoun, even on occasion inserting a noun, thus 
removing the "relation" supplied by the relative. 

Such relative connectives are still adjectival and could probably 
be classified as either descriptive or restrictive, but the consideration 
that has prompted their separate treatment is the fact that they move 
the thought of the sentence into a new area. By my count, there are 
422 relative connectives in the NT. 

Nominal Relative Clauses 

There are 473 relative clauses in the NT for which the antecedent 
of the relative pronoun is lacking, left to be supplied, or understood. 
The relative pronoun is usually translated by "the one who," "that 
which," or "what" (= "that which," not the interrogative). Actually, it 
is better to consider the relative as containing in itself its antecedent, 
and the entire clause becomes in effect a substantive. The clause itself 
becomes the subject or object of the sentence, or fills some other 
function in the sentence. 

When a nominal relative clause comes at the beginning or early 
in a sentence, it sometimes happens that a redundant personal or 
demonstrative pronoun is used later in the sentence. The redundant 
pronoun is called a pleonastic pronoun. This construction was found 
in Classical Greek, but it is much more common in biblical Greek, 
due probably to the influence of a similar Semitic idiom. 

A nominal relative clause may be categorized according to its 
function in a sentence. The two most common functions are subject 
or direct object of a verb, but other noun functions are found as well. 

Subject of the Verb 

Of the nominal relative clauses, 139 (29%) serve as subject of a 
sentence. Examples are Luke 7:4; a^iog sanv a) Trapc^rj xoOxo, "the 

Grammarians describe this situation differently. For example, BAGD (p. 583) 
says, "A demonstrative pron. is freq. concealed within the relative pron." But W. W. 
Goodwin (Greek Grammar, rev. C. B. Gulick [Boston: Ginn, 1930] 219) says, "In such 
cases it is a mistake to say that xaOia, ekeivoi, etc. are understood. . . . The relative 
clause here really becomes a substantive, and contains its antecedent within itself." 


one to whom you should grant this is worthy" (my translation; the 
NASB alters the sentence structure, "He is worthy for you to grant 
this to him") and John 1:33: eqT Sv av i'5r|c; to 7tvsGuxx Kaxafiaivov 
Kai uevov en' auxov, ouxoc; eaxiv 6 panxi^cov, "He upon whom you 
see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the one 
who baptizes." The last example illustrates also the pleonastic pro- 
noun, ouxoc;, which repeats the subject. Eleven subject clauses use a 
pleonastic pronoun. 

Direct Object of the Verb 

The largest number of the nominal relative clauses, 222 (47%), 
function as direct object of the verb; in 31 instances a pleonastic 
pronoun is also used. Mark 1:44 illustrates this object clause: Trpo- 
aeveyKe nspi xoO KaOapiauou oou a rcpoaexatjev Mcouafjc;, "offer for 
your cleansing what Moses commanded." In Rom 7:15, 16 this con- 
struction occurs four times, three of them with the pleonastic pro- 
noun (e.g., aXk' 6 uioto xouxo ttoiw, "the thing I hate, this I do" [my 

Other Nominative 

Other than as subject, the nominal relative clause is found in a 
nominative case relationship most frequently as a predicative nomina- 
tive in a copulative sentence (19 times). An example is found in John 
1:30: ouxoc; eaxiv imep ou eyd) sittov, "This is He on behalf of whom I 
said." In four instances there may be a nominative absolute construc- 
tion (Matt 10:14; 23:16, 18; and 1 Tim 3:16). 

Other Accusative 

Other than as direct object, the nominal relative clause is in an 
accusative relationship 17 times: as object of a preposition (10 times); 
as the complement of a direct objective (twice); and once each as 
accusative of person, of thing, and of respect; in apposition to a direct 
object; and subject of an infinitive. For example, in 2 Cor 12:20 pf| 
tiock; sXGwv ouk oi'ou<; 0s)lG) supco b\xac, Kayo) eupeOco uuiv oiov ou 
OeXexe, "afraid that ... I may find you to be not what I wish and may 
be found by you to be not what you wish," the clause oux oi'ouc, 0e?KO 
is the complement to the direct object b^iac,. In the latter part of the 
sentence the same construction is somewhat obscured by the verb 
changing to passive. Col 3:6 is an example of a nominal relative 
clause as accusative object of a preposition: 8i° a epxsxai fj 6pyf| xoO 
6eo0, "on account of which things the wrath of God comes" (my 


Genitive Substantive 

The nominal relative clause occurs in a genitive relation to the 
sentence 31 times: as genitive object of a preposition (17 times), as a 
partitive genitive (6 times), as an epexegetic genitive (4 times), as a 
genitive of comparison (twice), as a genitive of relationship (once), 
and as a genitive of content (once). An example of a partitive genitive 
is found in Rom 15:18: ou yap xo?iuf|aco xi >ax?i£iv cbv ou Kaxsipya- 
aaxo Xpiaxoc; Si' euou, "For I will not presume to speak of anything 
except what Christ has accomplished through me." A genitive of 
comparison is found in John 7:31: 6 Xpioxoc; oxav eWr\ uf] nXeiova 
or)|isia Troirjoei cbv oOxoc; 87ioir|asv; "When the Christ will come, He 
will not perform more signs than those which this man has, will He?" 

Dative Substantive 

The nominal relative clause is dative 41 times (13 with a pleon- 
astic pronoun): as indirect object (19 times), as object of a preposition 
(15 times), as dative of possession (5 times), and once each as dative 
of respect and of instrument. An example of an indirect object is 
found in Gal 3:19: xo cniepua co S7rf|yye?txai, "the seed ... to whom 
the promise had been made." A dative of possession is found in Mark 
11:23: be, otv suit] xco opsi xouxcp . . . eoxai auxco, "whoever says to 
this mountain ... it shall be granted him [literally 'it shall be to him', 
or, 'it shall be his']." Here the pleonastic pronoun auxco helps to 
identify the case and the construction. 

Adverbial Clauses 

Ninety times in the NT the relative, together with a preposition 
or some specific word expressing an adverbial idea, or both, becomes 
an introductory phrase for a clause functioning adverbially. The 
adverbial sense does not derive from the relative but from the preposi- 
tion and the antecedent of the relative. Fuller treatment of adverbial 
clauses (including those introduced by a relative) is planned for a 
future study, but a brief discussion is included here for the sake of 

Temporal Clauses 

Of the approximately 420 subordinate temporal clauses in the 
NT, 57 are introduced by a relative phrase. The temporal sense is 
indicated by the antecedent of the relative, sometimes expressed but 
more commonly omitted. When it is not stated it can be determined 
reasonably by the gender of the relative and the analogy of instances 
where it is used. The antecedent most frequently is xpovoc; in its 
proper case form (47 times, 5 of them actually expressed), then fjuspa 


(9 times, 7 expressed), and copa (once only, understood from the 
context). The simple relative 6c, is used in 36 instances, ocrci^ is seen 5 
times in the phrase ecoc; oxou, and the correlative ococ; 6 times. 

The actual phrases and the number of occurrences in the NT 
are listed here. Brackets indicate that the antecedent is left to be 

d(p' f|c, f|uspa<; 3 

dcp' f]q [fijiepac, 2 

dcp' f|<; [wpac, 1 

dcp' ou [xpovou 4 

ev co [xpovco 4 

ecp' oaov xpovov 2 

scp' oaov [xpovov 1 

oaov xpovov 3 

&Xpi fa fipepag 4 

d^pi ou [xpovou 4 

dxpig ot> [xpovou 5 

usxpi ou [xpovou 2 

scot; ou [xpovou 17 

sax; oxou [xpovou 5 

Causal Clauses 

There are 16 clauses classified as causal clauses introduced by 
relative phrases. The causal sense is indicated by the prepositions 
used, by the antecedent, or by both. The phrases and number of 
occurrences are: 

5i' f|v aixlav 


8V f|v 


f|v aiiiav 


dv6' qv 


scp' & 


si'vsKsv o5 


ou x^P^ 


Aid with accusative, sivskev and x«P lv a U mean 'on account of, 
or 'because of. 'Av9' wv 'in exchange for these things' may be 
understood as "because of these things." 'E(p' co may be contracted 
from scp' & toutco oti 'for this reason that' or 'because'. Six times the 
causal sense is shown by aixia as the antecedent, one time without a 
preposition. Once (2 Pet 3:12), 8i' f|v clearly has r\ii£paq as its ante- 
cedent, not aixia, yet the sense is causal rather than temporal, as Sid 

8 Cf. BAGD, 287. 


with the accusative requires. Nine times the relative is neuter with no 
antecedent, pointing to the general context for the reason or cause. 9 

Clauses Expressing Degree or Measure 

Ten adverbial relative clauses express degree or measure, in each 
case introduced by the correlative oaoc;, a word involving the idea of 
quantity or measure. The adverbial clause answers the questions, how 
much? or to what degree? 

In three of these clauses the relative has an adverb as its ante- 
cedent (ua?iA.ov in Mark 7:36, and utKpov (twice) in Heb 10:37). 
Actually the last two do not involve a clause at all, functioning as 
simple adverbs. These are unusual constructions, but not improper. 

Clauses Expressing Manner 

The phrases ov Tp07rov (5 times) and koiO' 6v xp67rov (twice) 
both mean "according to the manner which." These phrases clearly 
introduce a clause of manner. 

Other Adverbial Clauses? 

Mention should be made here of certain relative clauses, called 
by some grammarians "conditional relative clauses" and "relative 
purpose clauses" (and a few others which, if valid, should be included 
here but are not). I have previously discussed "conditional relative 
clauses," and concluded that, while the clauses may contain a sugges- 
tion of condition, they are not, and should not be, classified as 
conditional sentences. 

The situation is much the same with the so-called "relative pur- 
pose clause," or other clauses that may suggest other adverbial senses. 
As A. T. Robertson says, 

Almost any sentence is capable of being changed into some other form 
as a practical equivalent. The relative clause may indeed have a resul- 
tant effect of cause, condition, purpose or result, but in itself it expresses 
none of these things. It is like the participle in this respect. One must 
not read into it more than is there ..." As in Latin, the relative clause 
may imply cause, purpose, result, concession or condition, though the 
sentence itself does not say this much. This is due to the logical relation 
in the sentence. The sense glides from mere explanation to ground or 

Some see a similar causal or instrumental sense in some of the occurrences of ev 
& (Rom 8:3; 14:21; Heb 2:18: 6:17). Cf. BAGD, 261. 

10 See my article, "Other Conditional Elements in New Testament Greek," 185-86. 

"A. T. Robertson, A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of 
Historical Research (Nashville: Broadman, 1934) 956. 


reason. . . , 12 The indefinite relative like 6c; eav QeXr\ (Mk. 8:35) or 
ootk; ojioXoyfiaei (Mt. 10:32) is quite similar in idea to a conditional 
clause with eav tic, or si' xicj. But, after all, it is not a conditional 
sentence any more than the so-called causal, final, consecutive relative 
clauses are really so. It is only by the context that anyone inferentially 
gets any of these ideas out of the relative. 13 

Alternating Use of Relative with Mev, At 

The relative pronoun is used with the particles usv and 8s to 
express alternatives, such as are expressed in English by "the one . . . 
the other" or "some . . . others." This is about the only remainder in 
NT Greek of an original demonstrative sense of the relative pronoun. 14 
The article also (6 uiv ... 6 Se) is used in this alternating construc- 
tion, reflecting the same historical origin as a demonstrative. Certain 
other words, oXkoq (24 times), sxspoc; (10 times), and the indefinite 
xtvsc; (5 times), are also so used. Often these different patterns are 
mixed together in one set of such alternative expressions. Even aXXoq 
and sxspoc; mingle in the same set in a way that seems to defy 
explanation (cf. 1 Cor 12:8-10). The number of occurrences in the 
NT for these alternating expressions are as follows: 

Relatives only (6c; uiv . . . bq 8s) 13 

Article only (6 uiv . . . 6 8s) 10 

Other words only 9 

Relative combined with article 2 

Relative combined with other words 5 

Article combined with other words 7 

Total sets of alternatives 46 

Total number of relatives involved 38 

The sets may consist of two alternatives (26 times), of three (11 
times), of four (6 times), and one set of nine alternatives. 

The first item in the list is not always marked by uiv (9 excep- 
tions). Instead, the numeral etc;, the indefinite pronoun xiveq, the 
demonstrative article oi 8s, even a noun (Heb 11:35) and a partitive 
genitive phrase (John 7:40), all without uiv, may constitute the first 
item. The alternate items of each list are almost invariably marked by 
8s; the only exceptions are in the parallel passages, Mark 4:5 and 
Luke 8:6, where Kai iiXXa or mi sxspov is found, respectively. 1 Cor 
12:28, with ovc, uiv but no succeeding 8s, does not fit the "some . . . 

'-Ibid., 960. 
l3 Ibid., 961-62. 
14 Ibid., 695-96. 


other" pattern; the numbered items following the first are not alterna- 
tives to, but descriptions of, the first. Thus it is not classified in this 


In this section the various relative pronouns will be discussed. 
This will be followed by a discussion of the antecedents. Finally, the 
matter of agreement between relative pronouns and their antecedents 
will be analyzed. 

The Relative Pronoun 

By far the most frequently used relative pronoun is 6c;, fj, 6 (1395 
times, or 83% of the total). It is found in almost every gender, 
number, and case, and in every functional classification except one, 
where the sense calls for the quantitative ooocj. 

"Oaxicj, fJTicj, 6 xi is second in frequency (153 or 9%). This word 
is a compound of the common relative 6q and the indefinite pronoun 
tic;, with both parts of the compound experiencing inflection. This 
compounding with the indefinite and the use of the word in the early 
Greek gave it the name Indefinite Relative. But the name is no longer 
appropriate in the Greek of the NT. Blass says that ocj and ogxic; "are 
no longer clearly distinguished in the NT." 15 W. F. Howard 1 shows 
that ooxic; occurs almost solely in the nominative case and in the 
accusative neuter, the only exception being an old genitive singular 
neuter form surviving in the stereotyped phrase £to<; oxou. N. Turner 

Already in the Koine the distinction between the relative pronoun of 
individual and definite reference (6c; and oaoc;) and that of general and 
indeterminate reference (ocmc; and onoooc,) has become almost com- 
pletely blurred. Indeed in general relative clauses ocj is the rule, and 
although ocmcj is still used occasionally in its proper sense of whoever, 
it is nearly always misused, by Attic standards, of a definite and 
particular person. 1 

Cadbury 18 makes the difference almost a matter of inflection, asserting 
that in Luke the normal inflection is be,, f|xic;, 6 (nominative singular) 
and oi'xivec;, ai'xivsg, a (nominative plural). 

15 BDF, 152. 

16 W. F. Howard, A Grammar of New Testament Greek, vol. 2, Accidence and 
Word Formation (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1920) 179. 

N. Turner, A Grammar of New Testament Greek, vol. 3, Syntax (Edinburgh: 
T. &T. Clark, 1963)47. 

1S H. J. Cadbury, "The Relative Pronouns in Acts and Elsewhere," JBL 42 (1923) 
150-57. He claims only four exceptions in about 200 occurrences. 


"Oaoc; is a correlative pronoun which adds the concept of quan- 
tity to the relative concept and can be translated "as much as," "how 
much," or "as great as." It is used of space and time, of quantity and 
number, or of measure and degree. With Tt&vxec, it means "all who." 
With the correlative demonstrative toooutoc, it describes one item by 
comparing it with another quantitatively. It occurs 110 times in the 
NT (about 6.5% of the relatives) and in every major classification of 
relative uses. 

Oioc; is much like oaoc; but is qualitative rather than quantitative. 
It is usually translated "of what sort" or "such as." It is used in simple 
relative clauses and in indirect questions and exclamations. Only 14 
instances occur (less than 1%). 

'C)7roioc;, like oioc;, is qualitative, "of what sort." It is used, much 
as oioc;, in simple relative clauses and in indirect questions. There are 
only 5 occurrences (less than 0.3%). 'Onoaoc, ("how great," "how 
much"), which relates to oaoc; in the same way that otcoioc; does to 
oi'ocj, does not occur at all in the NT. 

c HXikocj, "how large," "how small," occurs only three times in 
the NT, always of size or stature (its cognate noun f]X,iKia is used 
both of age and stature). The pronoun is used only in indirect 

The Antecedent 


A pronoun is a standardized, abbreviated substitute for a noun. 
Every pronoun has an antecedent, the nominal in place of which the 
pronoun stands. A relative pronoun introduces a subordinate relative 
clause that makes an assertion about the pronoun's antecedent. In 
Luke 2:10 the angel said "I bring you good news of a great joy which 
shall be for all people." By dropping the relative "which" and repeat- 
ing the antecedent "joy" the statement may be restated as two 
sentences: "I bring you good news of a great joy. That great joy shall 
be for all people." Thus the relative is the subordinating link and the 
antecedent is the point of linkage in putting together two clauses. 

Grammatical Form of Antecedent 

The antecedent of a relative pronoun may be a simple noun or a 
substantival expression. By approximate count, 900 antecedents of 
relative pronouns are nouns, 150 are pronouns, 160 are other sub- 
stantival expressions, 100 are the subject expressed in the person and 
number of the verb, and 340 antecedents are left to be understood 
from the context. Very unusual are three whose antecedent is an 


adverb (see above under the heading, Clauses Expressing Degree or 

The large number of noun antecedents needs no comment. The 
pronouns are mostly personal or demonstrative. The pleonastic pro- 
noun antecedent will be discussed below. Also, the antecedent found 
in the inflection of the verb is self-explanatory. Of the other sub- 
stantival expressions, a pronominal adjective is found most often as 
the antecedent of a relative pronoun (forms of nac, [50+ times]; its 
opposite oOSeic; [13 times]; specific numbers like elc, or 5cb5eKa [10 
times]; and indefinite numbers like noXvc,, aXXoq, exspog, and Xoinoc, 
[17 times]). Other substantival adjectives account for about 25 ante- 
cedents. Substantival participles are antecedents in 38 instances. In 
three places (Acts 2:39, 2 Tim 1:15, Heb 12:25-26) the antecedent is 
an attributive prepositional phrase. A quoted scriptural passage that 
functions as a noun clause is used as the antecedent of a relative 
pronoun in Eph 6:2. Even an infinitive serves as an antecedent in 
Phil 4:10. 

In many places the relative has no specific antecedent stated in 
the sentence (about 340 times). In some of these cases it is possible to 
supply from the context a word which may be given as an understood 
antecedent. But in most of these cases the antecedent is rather to be 
seen as implicit in the relative itself. Often the clue is in the gender of 
the relative. Masculine and feminine may mean "the one who." Neuter 
may mean "the thing which," "that which," or "what." The neuter 
relative may also be used to refer generally to the idea or sense of the 
context. This implicit or "understood" antecedent is especially com- 
mon when a relative clause itself functions as a noun clause, and the 
antecedent implicit in the relative explains why a following pronoun 
is called pleonastic or redundant. 

Location of Antecedent 

The very term antecedent suggests that the antecedent comes 
before the relative, as it actually does in 1089 cases (about 82%). But 
in 244 cases the antecedent follows the relative in the sentence. If one 
subtracts the 69 places where the pleonastic pronoun is counted as an 
antecedent following the relative, there are 175 cases (less than 13%) 
in which the antecedent follows the relative. 

How far before or after the relative the antecedent may be found 
is not easy to summarize even with all the statistics at hand. Counting 
inclusively (that is, a count of two means it is the next word) a few 
observations may be helpful. Full statistics are available. 

19 See n. 7. 


Antecedent before relative: 

Next word before 39% 

5 words or less before 25% 

10 to 20 words before 10% 

over 20 words before 3% 
Antecedent after relative: 

Next word after 25% 

5 words or less after 71% 

10 to 20 words after 31% 

over 20 words after 4% 


Since a relative has connections with both the antecedent and the 
relative clause, its grammatical identifiers (gender, number, and case) 
do double duty. Normally, gender and number agree with the ante- 
cedent, but the case of the relative is determined by its grammatical 
function in its own clause. This normal rule is true in the NT more 
than 96% of the time. The exceptions to this rule are often called by 
grammarians "ad sensum" agreement, i.e., agreement in sense but not 
in grammatical form. The exceptions may be listed in five categories. 

Natural or Real Versus Grammatical Gender and Number 

There are 25 examples in the NT that may be classified in this 
category. Words like sOvoc;, tekvov, and 7rA.fj9oc; are grammatically 
neuter, but since they refer to people, sometimes masculine relatives 
are used with them. Words like Kapnoq, O7i6poc; are grammatically 
masculine, but they really are things, so neuter relatives may be used 
with them. 0npiov is neuter, but when it is used of the human 
"beast" of the Revelation, a masculine relative is used. Ke(pa?if| is 
feminine, but when it is used as a figure for Christ as head of the 
church, a masculine relative is used. This real versus grammatical 
distinction sometimes effects agreement in number also. Oupavoc;, 
whether singular or plural in grammatical form, may mean simply 
"heaven," and once (Phil 3:20) the plural form is antecedent to a 
singular relative. Similarly, C8(op in the singular is found once as the 
antecedent of a plural relative (2 Pet 3:6). Naoc; is singular, but when 
it is used collectively for the people of God (1 Cor 3:17), it is referred 
to by oi'xivec;, a plural relative. In Luke 6:17-18 nXf\Qoc„ a neuter 

For the rest of this section on the mechanics of relative clauses, I have depended 
largely on the thorough work of A. T. Robertson (Grammar, 714-22). Very helpful 
also is the discussion of 6a in BAGD, 583-85. 


singular antecedent, is found with the masculine plural oi' as relative, 
illustrating natural or real agreement in both gender and number. 

Translation Formulas 

A rather distinct group (7 instances) of these "ad sensum" agree- 
ments involve a formula for the translation of names of persons, 
places, titles, etc., from one language to another. The formula appears 
in six closely related forms, all of which begin with the neuter relative 
pronoun, 6. The specific phrases and their number of occurrences in 
the NT are as follows: 


6 screw ucOspurjvsuopsvov 5 22 
6 eaxiv Xsyopevoc; l 23 

6 ^eyexai 2 

6 ?ieysxai ueBepurivsuouevov 

6 Spur|V£U£T(Xl 


The antecedent usually is a word that has no grammatical gender in 
Greek, and the neuter relative is a natural one if we understand it to 
refer to the "word" itself rather than that which it designates, mentally 
supplying pfjpa or ovopa. 

Agreement with Predicate Substantives 

Some of the exceptions to the rule of agreement show an agree- 
ment of a different kind; the relative clause is a copulative one with a 
predicate substantive, and the relative agrees in gender with the 
predicate substantive rather than with the antecedent in the main 
clause. An example is found in Eph 6:17: xf|v u&xoupav xoO 7rvei3pa- 
toc,, 6 saxiv pfjua 8eo0, "the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of 
God." The actual antecedent is p&xaipav (feminine), but the predicate 
substantive, which is of course referring to the same thing, is pfjpa 
(neuter), and the relative neuter agrees with it. In every instance the 
predicate substantive is more prominent than the actual antecedent. 

2l Mark7:ll,34; 12:42; 15:16,42; Heb 7:2. 
22 Mark 5:41; 15:22, 34; John 1:41; Acts 4:36. 
23 Matt 27:33. 
24 John 19:17; 20:16. 
"John 1:38. 
26 John 1:42; 9:7. 

"Nine instances: Mark 7:11; 15:16, 42; Gal 3:16; Eph 6:17; 2 Thess 3:17; 1 Tim 
3:15; Rev 4:5; 5:8. 


Neuter of General Notion 28 

Sometimes the antecedent seems to be not some specific word 
but the general notion, the concept. Col 3:14 has an example: eni 
ticigiv 8e xouxok; xf]v &y&7ir|v, 6 eoxiv ativSeouoc; xfjc; x£?iei6xr|xo<;, 
"And beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of 
unity." The antecedent is &y&7rr|v (feminine), but the sense suggested 
by the neuter relative seems to be "that thing, quality, which is the 
uniting bond." 

Neuter of Abstraction 

In the NT as also classical Greek, and especially in John's writ- 
ings, the neuter is frequently used of a person when he is being 
thought of in an abstract way. This happens at least 6 times 29 in 
which a neuter relative is used to refer to an antecedent who is 
obviously a person. An example is found in John 17:24: IMxsp, 6 
5e5a>Ka<; uoi, 0e?tco i'va ono\) siui ey© k&ksivoi coaiv uex' 8(io0, 
"Father, I desire that they also whom [the neuter, 6] Thou has given 
Me be with Me where I am." The antecedent is obviously not im- 
personal. This abstract neuter is used elsewhere of God (John 4:22) 
and of men (John 6:37, 39; 17:2; 1 John 5:4). 

1 John 1:1-3 has a list of five relative clauses serving as object of 
a verb in v 3. The relatives are all 6 (neuter) and the antecedent is not 
stated. Two interpretations are conceivable: one is impersonal ("we 
proclaim to you the message which"), the other is personal ("we 
proclaim to you the One who"). The obvious parallel to the prologue 
of the gospel of John strongly indicates the personal view, and the use 
of the expression 6 . . . ai %£ip&c, fjucov £\|/r|^&(pr|oav, "which our 
hands handled" (my translation) requires the personal view — one 
cannot feel a message with his hands. What should be noted par- 
ticularly here is that the neuter does not require the impersonal 
interpretation. It may refer in an abstract way to "all He was and did, 
abstract Deity." 

Some General Considerations 

First, it should be noted that above exceptions to the rule of 
agreement are not mutually exclusive; some instances fit into two 

28 Seven instances: Matt 12:4; Gal 2:20; Eph 5:4, 5; Col 3:14; 2 Thess 3:17; 1 Tim 

' John 17:24; I John 1:1-3 (5 times). There are other places where the neuter 
relative has a grammatically neuter antecedent (tuxv), so that the gender mismatch is 
obscured: John 6:37, 39; 17:2. 


of the categories. For example, three relatives listed as translation of 
foreign words also show agreement with the predicate substantive. 

Second, a large number of these "ad sensum" agreements involve 
the neuter gender (about three-fourths of the total), and a large 
number involve the specific phrase 6 ecrciv. That raises the possibility 
that the phrase has become a stereotyped expression in which the 
gender is "neutral" rather than neuter, like the Latin id est, "that is," 
used in English and written in abbreviation, "i.e." A careful study 
shows that 6 eaxiv often seems to act like that, but there are other 
times when it preserves normal agreement in all three genders, so 
such a conclusion cannot be certain. Another phrase, tout' sotiv, 
"that is," is totally neutral in gender and equals the use of "i.e." 

Third, "ad sensum" agreement is not peculiar to Greek. It is a 
very natural construction which usually causes no problem of 

Attraction 30 

Attraction involves the case of the relative and antecedent. The 
normal rule is that case is determined by the grammatical function of 
the relative within its own clause. But there are exceptions to the 
general rule in which the relative is attracted to the case of the 

The situations that produce the exceptions to the general rule 
involve a relative whose case is attracted to the case of the antecedent 
(a phenomenon also found in classical Greek, particularly if the 
relative clause was separated from the antecedent by other modifiers). 
Most often (50 times in the NT), the attraction involves a relative 
whose grammatical function in its clause calls for an accusative, but 
the antecedent is either dative or genitive; in such circumstances, the 
relative is generally attracted to the case of the antecedent. In addi- 
tion, there are 10 instances in the NT where the grammatical function 
of a relative calls for the dative case, but the case is attracted to the 
case of a genitive antecedent. Cases of non-attraction are rare in the 
NT (Heb 8:2 and a few variant readings for other passages). 

Inverse Attraction 

Sometimes the reverse of what I have described as attraction 
occurs; the antecedent is attracted to the case of the relative. An 
example is found in Matt 21:42: AiOov 6v d7is5oKiuaaav oi oiko- 

Grammarians do not agree on the terminology here. Goodwin {Grammar, 220- 
21) uses the word "assimilation" for what most grammarians call "attraction," and 
"attraction" for what others call "incorporation." 


SouoOvxsc;, ouxot; sysvf|0r| sic; KS(pa?aiv ycoviac,, "The stone which the 
builders rejected, this became the chief cornerstone" (cf. Mark 12:10 
and Luke 20:17). The "stone" is the subject of the verb sysvf|0r| and 
as such would be nominative, but it is attracted to the case of the 
relative 6v which is accusative as direct object of its clause. Note also 
the pleonastic ouxoc,. Also note that in 1 Pet 2:7 the same quotation is 
given without this inverse attraction; XiOoc; is nominative. In 1 Cor 
10:16 inverse attraction occurs twice, both 7toxf|piov and apxov are 
subjects of their clauses but are attracted to the accusative case of the 
relatives. Luke 12:10 shows inverse attraction from dative to nomina- 
tive case. Inverse attraction in the NT involves the use of an accusa- 
tive for a nominative (7 times), an accusative for a genitive (4 times), 
an accusative for a dative (once), a nominative for a dative (once), a 
dative for an accusative (once), and a dative for a genitive (once). 

Inverse attraction usually happens when the relative clause pre- 
cedes the main clause, but the antecedent is pulled forward (for 
emphasis) to a position just before the relative. In some instances 
anacoluthon may be involved; the case of the antecedent results from 
a grammatical construction which is begun, but not completed. 31 


Frequently (42 times) the antecedent is moved out of its position 
in the main clause and incorporated into the relative clause. When 
this happens, the antecedent does not have an article, it usually does 
not follow immediately after the relative (except in a few set phrases: 
Sv TpoTiov, f| fmspa, fj copa, 5i' f|v aixiav), and it is in the same case 
as the relative, either by attraction or because both have the same 
natural case. Examples are found in Mark 6:16, 6v syw d7ioKS(pdXiaa 
lco&vvr)v, o5xoc, f|ysp0r|, "John, whom I beheaded, he has risen" and 
Luke 19:37, 7tspi nao&v wv s!5ov Suvauscov, "for all the miracles 
which they had seen." 

With Prepositions 

When either or both the antecedent and the relative stand in a 
prepositional phrase, a variety of forms may result. The preposition 
may appear with both (e.g., Acts 20:18: and 7ip(bxr|<; fiuspac, dcp' f|<;), 
with the relative only (e.g., John 4:53: SKsivrj xfj copa sv f|), or with 
the antecedent only (e.g., Acts 1:21: sv navxi XP OV( P siafj?i0sv). If 
the antecedent is unexpressed, the preposition may be the one com- 
mon to both (e.g., 2 Cor 2:3: dtp' &>v), the one which belongs to the 
relative (e.g., Luke 17:1: 5i' ou = xouxw 5Y ou), or the one which 

Cf. Robertson, Grammar, 718. 


would have been used with the antecedent (e.g., John 17:9: 7tepi 
wv = 7iepi xouxcov ovq). 


The relative has no affect whatever on the mood. The mood in 
relative clauses is governed by the same principles as it would be in an 
independent clause, and conveys the same semantic significance. 


The indicative is the most common mood used in relative clauses 
(1436 [84%] out of 1680). All the tenses are represented. 


The subjunctive also is used frequently (159 times [9%]). Only 
present subjunctives (38 times) and aorist subjunctives (121 times) are 
found in relative clauses in the NT. 

The basic significance of the subjunctive mood is potentiality or 
indefiniteness, both involving futurity. This element is always present 
in relative clauses which use a subjunctive verb. 

Ox) Mf| with the Subjunctive 

Elsewhere 32 this use of the subjunctive in emphatic future asser- 
tions has been discussed. It is usually found in main clauses but may be 
used anywhere an indicative can be used. The strangeness of the use of 
the subjunctive for emphatic assertion may be explained by the signifi- 
cance of the two negatives. The uf| immediately preceding the subjunc- 
tive verb negates the verb, making the clause a doubtful assertion. 
The o\j before the ur| negates the doubtfulness, making the total 
expression mean "not doubtful," "no doubt about it." Thus, the 
subjunctive is a "positively negated" future potentiality. It is found in 
8 relative clauses in the NT, involving 9 subjunctive verbs. 

Indefinite Relative Clauses 

These are the clauses which in English add the suffix "ever" to 
the relative introducing the clause ("whoever" or "whatever," refer- 
ring to an indefinite or general antecedent). Most (61%) are nominal 
clauses, serving as the subject or object of the main verb or some 
other substantival function. About one-fourth are adjectival. Typically 
they are introduced by a relative with av or sdv (124); the relative is 

"Cf. my article, "Subjunctives," 6. 
"Matt 16:28; Mark 9:1; 13:2; Luke 8:17; 9:27; 18:30; Acts 13:41; Rom 4:8. 


6c; (101 times), oooc, (12 times), or ogtic, (11 times). Once the indefinite 
relative oaxic; is used without av (James 2:10), and once the simple 
relative is used with the indefinite pronoun ti as its antecedent (Heb 
8:3). One indefinite relative clause is so compressed that it is difficult 
to analyze (Acts 21:16). All of the indefinite relative clauses use the 
subjunctive mood. 

Relative Adverbial Clauses of Time 

This group of relative clauses has been discussed above and 
needs here only to be looked at with respect to the mood used. All of 
the other adverbial relative clauses and more than two-thirds of the 
relative temporal clauses use the indicative mood. But about one- 
third of the relative temporal clauses use the subjunctive. Relative 
temporal clauses follow the standard procedure for all temporal 
clauses. When the sense is "until" and the time "until which" is either 
future or unknown, then the subjunctive is used. In all other instances 
the indicative is used. So the subjunctive here is normal usage and fits 
the basic significance of the mood. 

Hortatory Subjunctive 

The hortatory subjunctive is usually found in the main clause of 
a sentence, expressing a futuristic and potential character. In one 
instance it occurs in a relative clause with that same significance (Heb 
12:28: sxwuev x&piv, 5i' i\q Xatpeucopsv, "Let us be thankful and so 
worship [/V7F]). 34 

Future Indicative as Equivalent to Aorist Subjunctive? 

In a previous study 35 the use of the future indicative in places 
where normally an aorist subjunctive would be expected has been 
considered. There are a few places where this may be true among the 
relative clauses. In Mark 8:35 and Acts 7:7 the simple relative with dv 
or sdv is followed by the future indicative. Both are indefinite relative 
clauses that normally use the subjunctive. In Matt 12:36 a clause with 
the future indicative is introduced by nav ... 6, which often is in- 
definite. If the future indicative is understood as subjunctive, the 
clause would be indefinite and the sense "whatever idle word men 
should speak." This would fit the context well. But the particle dv is 
not present, and the sense could conceivably be definite, "every specific 
word which men shall speak." 

34 BDF (p. 191, §377) translates the clause, "through which let us worship." A freer 
translation is, "Let us take our grace and by it let us worship." 
35 See my article, "Subjunctives," 16-17. 


In Luke 1 1:6 the relative is followed by a future indicative that, if 
understood to function like a subjunctive, could be an example of a 
deliberative question indirectly quoted in a relative clause. However, 
the simple future indicative seems more probable. 


An imperative verb occurs after a relative in 9 instances, but in 
none of them does the relative have anything to do with the mood. A 
relative clause frequently introduces a new statement by attaching it 
subordinately to the preceding one (see the discussion above under 
"Adjectival Relative Clauses). The new statement may be imperatival, 
with an imperative verb. This use of the relative clause is parallel to 
the hortatory subjunctive with a relative. Six such examples are seen 
in the NT. 36 

Three other imperatives in relative clauses are to be explained 
otherwise. They are found in clauses involved with the alternating use 
of the relative. This alternating relative may put together sets of 
words, phrases, or clauses. In Jude 22-23 three imperatival clauses 
are put together in this manner: "have mercy on some [oOc; usv] . . . , 
save others [ovq 56] . . . , on some have mercy [out; 56]." 


The alternating use of the relative also explains the two participles 
which follow relatives in Mark 12:5, "beating some, and killing 
others." The two participles are not verbs governed by the relative, 
but rather are two phrases put in an alternating relationship. 


The purpose of language is to communicate, not to confuse, and 
usually it works very well. But when one word is used for another, 
such as a relative pronoun for an antecedent, there is introduced the 
potential for a misunderstanding. One of the surprising facts arising 
out of this study is the rarity of confusion over the identification of 
antecedents. Almost always the antecedent is quite obvious. However, 
there are a few instances in which this is not the case. I mention four. 

Matthew 26:50 

When Jesus spoke to Judas in Gethsemane on the occasion of 
the betrayal, he said, eicupe, 6(p' 6 napei. Two very different under- 
standings have developed out of these words. The problem centers in 

36 2 Tim 4:15; Titus 1:13; Heb 13:7; 1 Pet 3:3; 5:9, 12. 


the use of the relative. Traditional grammarians have tried to treat it 
as a normal relative pronoun; the phrase ecp' 6 would mean "for 
which," and the clause would be translated, "Friend, for which you 
are here." This obviously is incomplete. Two solutions have become 

Traditional grammarians have usually supplied the need by in- 
serting a verb at the beginning, not expressed but supplied mentally 
to make sense of the statement (cf. NASB: "Friend, do what you have 
come for"; most recent translations are similar). Grammatically it is 
proper, the sense is tolerable, but the question remains, why is the 
most important word in the statement left unsaid? 

In very early times the words were understood quite differently; 
they were taken as a question, "Why are you here?" The Old Latin 
and Sinaitic Syriac understood it so, as did Luther's German and the 
KJV, "Friend, wherefore art thou come?" There is no conjecture and 
the sense is more natural to the context. The problem is the pronoun; 
6 is a relative, not an interrogative. Grammarians, under the long- 
standing dominance of Attic Purists, insisted that the relative never 
was used as an interrogative. 

Adolph Deissman 37 has shown that this was no longer true in 
later Greek. He quotes an inscription etched on the side of an ancient 
Syrian glass wine goblet (first century a.d.): s(p' 6 7idpsi; eu(ppcdvou 
"Why are you here? Make merry!" Several other such glasses have 
been found, and papyrologists attest this interrogative use of the 
relative for later common Greek. Taking this understanding the sense 
becomes clear and forceful, "Friend, why are you here?" 

2 Peter 1:4 

The prepositional phrase, 5i' 6v, is found in 2 Peter 1:4. Since 
(bv may be any gender, the only factor of agreement to be checked is 
number; it is plural. There are three possible antecedents in the 
context: fiuiv (v 3), rcdvxa (v 3), and 56^r| Kai aperf) (v 3). If f]uav is 
the antecedent, then the sense of vv 3-4, is, "given to us . . . through 
whom (i.e., us) . . . he has given to us promises." This understanding 
of the passage is awkward and makes poor sense. When 7rdvxa is 
considered to be the antecedent, the sense is, "given us all things . . . 
through which (things) he has given to us promises." This, too, is 
awkward. The last mentioned possible antecedent is the nearest of the 
three, and makes the best sense: "the One who called us by means of 
his own glory and virtue, through which he has given promises." 

Adolph Deissman, Light from the Ancient East, 4th ed. (New York: Harper, 
1922) 125-31. 


2 Peter 3:6 

This passage also uses the prepositional phrase, 5i' cov. Two 
antecedents would fit well the meaning of the passage: the flood 
waters and the Word of God. But in both cases there are problems of 
agreement. Five explanations have been suggested. (1) The antecedent 
is Tcp X,6y(p xoO 6eo0 (v 5); it is singular, but God's Word is made up 
of many words. (2) The antecedent is i35otxi (v 5); the word is singular, 
but it used twice (ev u5cm Kai zt, CSaxi), and the nature of water is 
such that singular/ plural is not so relevant. (3) CScrci plus >u3ycp; 
together they are plural. However, this is an unlikely combining of 
two disparate items. (4) The antecedent is oupavoi Kai yfj; a very 
unrealistic suggestion which does not give good sense to the passage. 
(5) Variant readings in the text (see NA 26 ) suggest the possibility of 
copyist error. However, the evidence for this is weak. Of these five 
explanations I prefer the second. 

1 John 3:20 

This is a grammatically difficult passage. The problem centers in 
the fact that the word oxi occurs twice in the verse, and one of these 
seems to be superfluous. There are three basic ways of understanding 
this text. 

One way to solve the grammatical difficulty of this passage is to 
say that the first oxi is not the subordinating conjunction, but the 
indefinite relative pronoun, 6 xi. This explanation is plausible since, 
at the time of the writing of the NT, the continuous writing of words 
without spaces between them was the almost universal practice. Thus, 
there would be no written distinction between oxi and 6 xi. Given this 
understanding, sdv is indefinite rather than conditional, and 6 xi eav 
means "whatever." This way of handling the passage has been taken 
almost universally by modern speech English translations (e.g., ASV 
margin, RSV, Amplified Bible, Philip's, NEB text and first margin, 
NASB, and NIV). However, for many reasons I am convinced that 
this understanding is wrong. 

First, the case of 6 xi (accusative) does not fit. NASB translates 
the clause, "in whatever our heart condemns us"; the case of the 
indefinite relative pronoun would depend on the verb KaxayivcbaKCO. 
This verb takes a genitive object to express the fault with which one is 
being charged. 38 The accusative cannot be explained by assimilation, 
for the antecedent (unexpressed) would not be in the accusative case 

38 BAGD, 409. 


Furthermore, if the opening of v 20 was the indefinite relative 6 
ti, then the structure of 1 John 3:19-21 would not be consistent with 
the contrasting structure of opposite conditions so characteristic of 
this epistle (cf. 1:6-7, 8-9, 10; 2:4-6, 10-11, 15; 3:6, 7-8, 14-15, 17; 
4:2-3, 4-6, 7-8, 10; 5:10). One of the ways in which this contrasting 
structure is introduced is with the phrase, sv xoOxo ywcboKopev, "in 
this we are getting to know." The phrase is used nine times in this 
epistle with only slight verbal variations. Twice (2:5; 3:16) the phrase 
is followed by an indefinite conditional, "whoever." Three times (3:24; 
4:2; 5:2) it is followed by one side of a contrasting pair, the other side 
being implied. Three times (2:3; 4:2, 6) it is followed by contrasting, 
opposite, conditional sentences. 1 John 3:19-21 seems to fit into this 
last category: "if our heart condemns us [v 20] ... if our heart does 
not condemn us [v 21]." 

Finally, the interpretation of the passage that results from under- 
standing the opening words to be the indefinite relative is out of 
character with the rest of this epistle. To paraphrase with an indefinite 
relative, the passage reads as follows: 

We know that we are of the truth and shall persuade our conscience 
[the probable sense of Kctp5ia here] toward God with respect to any- 
thing our conscience may rebuke us for, because God knows us better 
than we know ourselves; he knows that our conscience is wrong in 
condemning us. If our conscience does not condemn us we already 
have this boldness toward him. 

This interpretation suggests that man is more sensitive about his sin 
than God is. But 1 John was written to bring assurance of salvation 
to those who believe (2:3; 5:13). Assurance is gained when one ex- 
amines his life on the basis of a series of tests that John presents to 
separate between believers and unbelievers. The evidence of God 
working in a life is seen when one becomes more loving and more 
Christ-like, living in purity rather than in sin. Given the interpretation 
that results from understanding John to have used an indefinite rela- 
tive, 1 John 3:19-21 would be teaching the opposite of the rest of the 
epistle; in this one instance one would be told not to worry about his 
conscience, because God knows that he is better than he thinks he is. 

The second basic way to understand this text is to interpret the 
first on as a conjunction introducing a nominal, conditional (because 
of sdv) clause that is the direct object of the verb Tieioouev; the 
second on is superfluous and should be ignored. The sense is, "We 
shall persuade our conscience before God that if our conscience 
condemns us, God is greater than our conscience." The major problem 
with this understanding of the grammar is that nowhere in Greek, NT 


or otherwise, does TteiGco use a oxi clause as object. The normal 
construction uses an infinitive or Tispi or i'va. Also, it leaves the 
second oxi unexplained. 

The third way to make sense of this passage is to say that the 
first on introduces a causal, conditional clause. The resultant mean- 
ing becomes an explanation of the confidence expressed in v 19: "We 
shall persuade our conscience before God because, if our conscience 
condemns us. . . ." Thus far the grammar is proper, and the sense is 
good. But there is still the problem of the second oxi. This is variously 
explained. Some ignore it or drop it. Afford 39 sees the clause as 
causal, and by supplying eoxiv it becomes "it is because God is 
greater than our hearts." A. Plummer makes it a nominal clause, 
with 5fjX,ov to be supplied: "it is obvious that God is greater than our 
hearts." This makes excellent sense, and there is a possible parallel to 
the construction in 1 Tim 6:7, where there is a on clause and in the 
critical apparatus (NA 26 ) the variant readings show SfjXov on. Two 
other examples, but without oxi, are 1 Cor 15:27 and Gal 3:11. Some 
variation of this third basic way of understanding the grammar seems 
to be the most defensible. 


The use of relative pronouns and relative clauses in the Greek 
NT is rich and varied. This study has statistically analyzed the gram- 
matical and semantic functions of relative pronouns and relative 
clauses. Generally, these functions are obvious, but the use of one 
word in the place of another (such as a relative pronoun in the place 
of its antecedent) does introduce the possibility of confusion. 

19 Henry Alford, Greek Testament, New ed. vol. 4 (London: Longmans Greek, and 
Cambridge: Deighton, Bell & Company, 1894) 480. 

40 A. Plummer, Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges, The Epistles 
of St. John (Cambridge: Cambridge University, 1896) 88. 

Grace TheologicalJoumal 9.2 (1988) 257-277 


Rodney J. Decker 

Any conclusions regarding the function of elders in local churches 
must take into consideration church polity. Several lines of reasoning 
suggest that final ecclesiastical authority is vested in local congrega- 
tions. First, apostolic authority in church matters did not extend 
beyond the original apostles. Second, several theological principles 
indicate the importance of every believer in the decision making 
process of a local congregation. Also, there are several NT examples 
of churches making decisions corporately. Finally, NT instruction 
regarding church polity does not contradict these lines of reasoning. 


Depending on one's associations in evangelical Christianity, the 
subject of the elder's role in church leadership is taken for 
granted, ignored, or hotly debated. Those who are interested in the 
role of elders in the church face several important questions. Who are 
the NT elders and what is their role in the church? What is elder rule? 
Is a NT church a democratic institution? Are there different kinds of 
elders? Is each assembly to have a single leader or is multiple leader- 
ship required? With whom is final authority vested in the church? 
This article will seek to address one aspect of these questions: the 
relationship of church polity to the elder issue. This issue has not 
received the necessary emphasis in other studies that have appeared. 


Some of the questions concerning the elder's role arise due to a 
failure to consider other more basic NT doctrines. At the heart of the 
elder issue is the entire concept of church government. On a practical 
level this means answering two questions. Where does the final 
authority lie in a local church? How is Christ's authority functionally 


applied and expressed in the local assembly? Although Fee ques- 
tions whether the NT teaches a normative church order, it is here 
argued that congregational church polity does have biblical authority. 


The twentieth century church cannot hope to duplicate the 
decision making process of the first century church. Since the NT 
makes no provision for apostolic succession, 3 the contemporary church 
is unable to include an apostolic role in its polity considerations. The 
apostles often intervened and made unilateral decisions for the early 
churches. 4 Not only was the church in its infancy at this stage, but the 

'Cf. Robert L. Saucy ("Authority in the Church," in Walvoord: A Tribute, ed. 
Donald K. Campbell [Chicago: Moody, 1982] 220): "Since Christ is the Lord of His 
church, all agree that any valid human authority in the contemporary church can only 
be an expression of His authority. The solution to church authority thus lies in 
determining the means of communication and implementation of Christ's authority in 
the functioning of the church today." 

2 "If the NT is one's 'sole authority' and that authority does not in fact teach 
anything directly about church order at the local level, then one might rightly ask 
whether there is a normative church order." Gordon D. Fee, "Reflections on Church 
Order in the Pastoral Epistles, with Further Reflection on the Hermeneutics of Ad Hoc 
Documents," JETS 28 (1985) 149-50. 

"It must be obvious . . . that the apostles had, in the strictest sense of the term, no 
successors. Their qualifications were supernatural, and their work, once performed, 
remains in the infallible record of the New Testament for the advantage of the Church 
and the world in all future ages. They are the only authoritative teachers of Christian 
doctrine and law. All official men in Christian churches can legitimately claim no 
higher place than expounders of the doctrines and administrators of the laws found in 
their writings." Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature, ed. 
John McClintock and James Strong, "Apostle," 1.311, col. 2; cf. also "Succession, 
Apostolic," ibid., 10.5-7. Fee's comments are also worth noting. "Although most 
Protestants in theory deny apostolic succession to reside in its clergy, de facto it is 
practiced in vigorous and sometimes devastating ways — in the 'one-man show' of many 
denominational churches or in the little dictatorships in other (especially 'independent') 
churches. And how did such a pluralism of papacies emerge? Basically from two 
sources (not to mention the fallenness of the clergy whose egos often love such power): 
(a) from the fact that the local pastor is so often seen (and often sees him/ herself) as 
the authoritative interpreter of the 'sole authority' — Scripture; (b) from the pastor's 
functioning in the role of authority, thus assuming the mantle of Paul or of a Timothy 
or Titus. Hence it is based strictly on the use of a paradigm, the validity of which is 
scarcely ever questioned. Here Protestant 'tradition' [as opposed to biblical revelation] 
has the final say." Fee, "Church Order in the Pastoral Epistles," 149. Carson likewise 
observes that "Ironically, some forms of Congregationalism elevate the pastor, once he 
has been voted in, to near papal authority, in practice if not in theory." D. A. Carson, 
"Church, Authority in," Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. W. Elwell (Grand 
Rapids: Baker, 1984; hereafter cited as EDT) 230. 

Carson observes that the apostles' "authority extended beyond the local congrega- 
tion, even beyond congregations they had been instrumental in founding . . . , but it 
was not without limit." Ibid., p. 228. Later he points out that "The apostles enjoy a 


canon of Scripture had not yet been completed. The apostles' role 
may not be taken as normative for today. As Saucy points out, "it 
must be remembered that the church as it is described in the New 
Testament was in its foundational era. The apostles, as bearers of a 
unique authority, were still present. Care must be exercised to dis- 
tinguish that which is normative and permanent from that which 
belongs peculiarly to the initiatory era." 

Other guidelines must therefore be sought. These guidelines may 
be sought in two ways. Theological principles may be sought which 
will suggest the appropriate conclusion or at least lend substantial 
assistance in choosing between alternatives. The second avenue which 
should be considered relates to the example of the early church. 


There are several theological principles that are relevant to the 
discussion of a biblical church polity. Only a summary statement of 
each will be noted here. 

Sole Authority of Scripture 

The Word of God alone is the believer's sole authority for those 
things he is to believe and how he is to live. The sola scriptura cry of 
the Reformation must never be lost. Although God has ordained 
human teachers and has placed some in positions of leadership, he 
has vested absolute and final authority for matters of faith and 
practice in the written Scriptures. No believer has authority to dictate 
the beliefs, lifestyle, or ministry responsibilities of another. 

Tradition (despite its compulsiveness) is not authoritative. Peer 
pressure (strong as it may be) cannot serve as a final guide to doctrine 
or mores. Not even the great creeds of the church, nor one's favorite 
doctrinal statement (as necessary as such statements may be in some 

self-conscious authority as God-chosen custodians of the gospel; and if they prefer to 
exercise their authority with meekness in an effort to win spiritually minded con- 
sensus . . . , they are also prepared, if need be, to impose their authority without 
seeking consensus, and even against the consensus." Ibid. As illustrations of this 
authority, cf. Acts 5:1-11; 8:14-17; 14:23; 1 Cor 4:18-21; 5:3-5; 2 Cor 10:11; 13:2-3; 
1 Tim 1:20; Titus 1:5; 3 John 10. 

"The real successor to the apostolate is the NT itself, since it contains their 
ministry within the church of God." R. E. Higginson, "Apostolic Succession," EDT, p. 

Saucy, "Authority in the Church," 231. For a different perspective, challenging 
the normativeness of historical events recorded in Acts, but not specifically commanded, 
cf. Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart, How to Read the Bible for All It's Worth: A 
Guide to Understanding the Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1982) 87-102. 

This summary draws heavily on the work of Saucy ("Authority in the Church," 
225-30), particularly in items 2-6. 


situations) may ever be granted equal authority with the Word of 
God. 8 

Ministry Responsibility 

The authority exercised by the apostles has been encapsulated in 
the written Scriptures. Yet, as Saucy indicates, there is a sense in 
which their ministry is continued through the church. 9 The same basic 
ministry which the apostles exercised is now entrusted to the church 
as a whole. 10 This can be categorized in several areas: edification, 11 
evangelism, 12 service, 13 and the ordinances. 14 The involvement of 
specific individuals will vary depending on the spiritual endowments 
with which God has equipped them. There will be leadership in all 
these areas, but the responsibility has been entrusted to the entire 
body. The church as a whole perpetuates an apostolic ministry, 
though no individual in the church exercises apostolic authority. 

Priesthood of All Believers 

All believers are priests before God. 15 "Access to the throne of 
God and to the Word of God is the present and perpetual privilege of 

Earl D. Radmacher, The Question of Elders (Portland: Western Baptist, 1977) 2. 

9 Saucy, "Authority in the Church," 224. 
It is true that the church did exercise these ministries prior to the passing of the 
apostles. Yet the apostles, by virtue of their office, held final authority in all these areas. 
The point to be made here is that although the church continues such ministries, there 
are no longer apostles present who may override local church decisions. Final authority 
for ministry is now committed to each assembly. 

"Rom 15:14; Col 3:16. 

12 Acts 8:4; 1 Thess 1:8-10; 1 Pet 2:9; 3:15. 

13 Gal6:2; 1 Thess 5:14. 

14 Acts 2:42, 46; 8:12; 9:17-18 and 1 Cor 1:14 illustrate the diversity with which the 
early church observed the ordinances. There is not a single individual identified as an 
elder/ pastor who administers any of the ordinances in the NT. This is quite different 
from the popular contemporary practice of many churches in which an ordained pastor 
is required before any of the ordinances can be legitimately observed. "There is 
nothing, therefore, that the minister does in his public function that every believer does 
not also have the right to do. He may lead publicly in such functions at any time, at the 
call and commission of the church" [emphasis in the original]. Craig Skinner, The 
Teaching Ministry of the Pulpit (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1973) 65. 

1 Pet 2:4-5, 9. "As individuals, all Christians are priests alike." J. B. Lightfoot, 
"The Christian Ministry," in St. Paul's Epistle to the Philippians (London: Macmillan, 
1913; reprint, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1953) 185. "Above all [the Church] has no 
sacerdotal system. It interposes no sacrificial tribe or class between God and man, by 
whose intervention alone God is reconciled and man forgiven. Each individual member 
holds personal communion with the Divine Head. To Him immediately he is respon- 
sible, and from Him directly he obtains pardon and draws strength." Ibid., 181. Cf. 
also Alex T. M. Chemung, "The Priest As the Redeemed Man: A Biblical-Theological 
Study of the Priesthood," JETS 29 (1986) 273-75. 


every single member of God's family." 16 One would expect, therefore, 
that there would be specific priestly functions to be performed. This 
expectation is consistent with the NT picture of the "spiritual sacrifices 
of praise, good works and personal devotion [which] are incumbent 
on every church member (1 Pet 2:5; Heb 13:15-16; Rom 12:1)." 17 The 
OT priestly ministry of the Word can also be compared to the 
similar ministry of the believer-priest in the NT. "Any service that 
represents God before the outside world or that ministers to other 
believers is a function of the priesthood. There is no ministry that 
rests on a special group; it belongs to the entire church." Believer- 
priests need to remember and emphasize, not just their privilege of 
access, but also their commensurate responsibility of service. ° 

Teaching Ministry of the Holy Spirit 

The work of the Holy Spirit in teaching all believers argues that 
all believers have the responsibility for evaluating all things by the 
Word. "The Spirit of truth had brought the Word to them. ... He 
now continues that ministry by giving them inner witness to the truth, 
enabling them to accept it as such and to reject the false. That in no 
way negates the necessity of teachers for the church, but it does give 
the church the ability and authority to test all things, including 
teachers (1 John 4:1)." 21 Since the Word of God is the written ex- 
pression of his will for the church, it follows that "the application of 
authority belongs ultimately to those who are responsible for evaluat- 
ing all things by the truth of the Word." 22 This is not limited to a 
subgroup of the membership (such as all or part of the church 
officers) but includes all believers in any given local assembly. 

Spiritual Gifts 

If the Holy Spirit has equipped believers with the spiritual abilities 
needed to carry out the ministry of the church, 23 then it is consistent 

Radmacher, "Elders," 1. 

17 Saucy, "Authority in the Church," 226. 

18 Lev 10:11; Deut 33:10; 2 Chr 15:3; Mai 2:6-7. 

19 Ibid. Note also the comment of Skinner: "In practice, however, we fail to apply 
this high view of the church's nature, and tend to organize ourselves as a group 
gathered around one or more specialists who are responsible to see that the work of 
God is effectively fulfilled through their service" [emphasis in the original] Skinner, 
Teaching Ministry of the Pulpit, 64. 

20 Radmacher, "Elders," 1. 

2l Saucy, "Authority in the Church," 227. 

22 Ibid. 

23 Although some have more recently challenged such an assumption, the con- 
sensus of a broad spectrum of scholarly opinion reflects no such uncertainty. Cf., e.g., 
Morris A. Inch, Saga of the Spirit: A Biblical, Systematic, and Historical Theology of 


to accept the authority of the individual so enabled to perform that 
ministry. As Saucy expresses it, there is "a certain diffusion of 
authority throughout the entire church." A certain tension between 
the formal and individual elements in the structure and authority of a 
local assembly can be felt in this matter. Such an antinomy does not 
negate the validity of the argument, however. "This does not suggest 
the autonomous, authoritative operation of each of the spiritually 
gifted within the body. Rather there is an interplay between the 
authority of the individual and the body as a whole." 26 The point to 
be made here is that there is a legitimate authority that is as broad as 
the entire assembly. 

Authority and Will of Christ Expressed Collectively 

Various forms of polity reflect the final, pragmatic decision mak- 
ing authority in many diverse forms. Churches where the pastor is 
viewed as the "strong leader" often assume that the will of Christ for 
the church is expressed through one man. Other churches suppose 
that God's will is expressed through a select group in the church, 
whether that be the elders, deacons, or some other designation." 

While not seeking to denigrate the leadership of either the pastor 
or others charged with leadership or ministry responsibilities in a 
local church, the biblical concept appears to place greater emphasis 

the Holy Spirit (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1985) 145-50; J. I. Packer, Keep in Step with 
the Spirit (Old Tappan: Revell, 1984) 81-91; Edwin H. Palmer, The Person and 
Ministry of the Holy Spirit: The Traditional Calvinistic Perspective, 2nd ed. (Grand 
Rapids: Baker, 1974) 157-58; Charles C. Ryrie, The Holy Spirit (Chicago: Moody, 
1965) 83-92; John Williams, The Holy Spirit: Lord and Lifegiver (Neptune: Loizeaux, 

" 4 Saucy, "Authority in the Church," 228. 

" "The discussion of gifts of the Spirit often flounders with regard to the institu- 
tional structure of the church. Seeing that we have both designated officials and 
charismatic leadership present in the one fellowship, who is responsible for what? . . . 
The problem persists so long as we treat it as a contest over who exercises authority." 
Inch, Saga of the Spirit, 146. If a church has designated officials who are organi- 
zationally responsible for areas of ministry in which they are not equipped with the 
necessary gifts, there are bound to be conflicts. 

~ 6 Saucy, Authority in the Church, 228-29. 
John MacArthur's influential advocacy of elder rule has become well known in 
recent years. Although appreciating much of MacArthur's emphasis in the area of 
ecclesiology, the present writer must take exception to his policy of elder rule. He 
contends that "trying to spread the authority over the entire congregation opens up the 
possibility of division and disagreement. Godly men leading the church is the sine qua 
non [of Grace Community Church]. Christ wants to rule His own church and has 
chosen to mediate it through a plurality of such godly men." John MacArthur and 
Fred Barshaw, Leading the Flock, 3rd ed. (Sun Valley, Calif.: Grace Community 
Church, 1982) 32. This view is addressed further below. 


on the congregation in matters of final authority. "The will of Christ 
for the Body can only be expressed collectively." 28 This is based on 
the fact that Christ is still active in the church. There is no exclusive- 
ness of direction to an elite group." Indeed, Paul can exhort all 
believers to submit, not only to church "leaders" (FIsiGsaGe xoiq 
fiyouuevoig uuwv Kai UTreiKexe / 'obey those who rule over you and 
submit', Heb 13:17) but also to one another ('YTroxaaoojisvoi dX,- 
at|Xoi<; / 'submit to one another', (Eph 5:21). 

The common thread running through all of the above theological 
principles is the importance of the congregation corporately in matters 
of church polity. Although recognizing leadership in various aspects 
of ministry, the NT emphasizes the significance of every believer, both 
as part of a local assembly and as a part of the "church which is his 
body." There are no little people with God, and there should not be 
in the church. This is precisely the attitude displayed in the early 


The second area that deserves attention in the question of polity 
is the example of the NT church. Such an endeavor is not as easy as 
might at first appear. There are widely divergent attitudes toward the 
use of historical precedence for such purposes. It is very common to 
assume that the church today is to be as nearly identical as possible to 
the churches described in the NT, particularly those described in the 
book of Acts. "By and large, most sectors of evangelical Protestantism 
have a 'restoration movement' mentality. We regularly look back to 
the church and Christian experience in the first century as the norm 
to be restored or the ideal to be approximated." 31 On the other hand, 

Saucy, Authority in the Church, 229. From the context of this remark, Saucy is 
apparently referring to the local assembly in his reference to "the Body." Two para- 
graphs later he says, "only the church together, and not a particular group of leaders, 
can finally express that ['christocratic'] authority." 

"Whereas Christians are encouraged to support and submit to spiritual leader- 
ship (e.g., Heb. 13:17), such encouragement must not be considered a blank check if 
churches are responsible for and have authority to discipline false teachers and to 
recognize an antecedent commitment not to a pastor but to the truth of the gospel." 
D. A. Carson, "Church, Authority in," EDT, 230. 

There is no practical difference between u7reiKco (a hapaxlegomenon) and the more 
common fmoTdaoco. This principle can, of course, be abused. It is not intended to imply 
that 5 1 % of a church vote determines the Lord's will in any given situation. See Norman 
Nideng ("Stop the Voting; You're Wrecking My Church!" Moody Monthly [March, 
1982] 7-9) for some thought-provoking comments to consider in this regard. A minority 
may well be right at times. The cure for this abuse is to seek unanimity in decisions, not 
to delegate decision-making authority to those who are thought to be more spiritual. 
31 Fee and Stuart, How to Read the Bible, 88. 


it appears to be becoming more popular in recent years to cavalierly 
dismiss any possible relevance of historical examples of churches 
from Acts and other NT passages from consideration in ecclesio- 
logical discussions. 

Fee has well stated the problem posed in seeking to establish 
normative polity based on NT example. 

The hermeneutical problem of Acts, therefore, is a crucial one and 
touches many parts of Scripture which are basically historical narrative. 
How is the book of Acts, which prima facie narrates a small segment of 
the early spread of Christianity, to be understood as the Word of God? 
That is, what is its Word which not merely describes the primitive 
Church but speaks as a norm to the Church at all times? Indeed, do 
such narratives somehow establish normative precedents for succeeding 
generations? Or are they merely illustrative or informative? If they do 
have a word for us, and I think they do, how does one discover it, or 
set up principles in order to hear it? 

While full discussion of this problem is beyond the scope of this 
article, the following guidelines are suggested as a basis for under- 
standing the relevance of historical example in the NT as it relates to 
church polity. 

Normative Guidelines for Establishing Polity 

Precedence of Doctrinal Passages. Explicit doctrinal passages 
and commands have precedence over historical narrative. 34 There are 
many doctrinal passages in Scripture, the specific intent of which is to 
teach particular doctrinal truth or to require specific action of God's 
people. There are numerous commands addressed specifically to the 
church. In these instances there is little dispute regarding obligation. 
Such texts must form the primary basis of ecclesiological decisions. 

Historical Precedence Alone. Historical narrative records what 
did happen in a given situation. It does not prescribe what must 
happen in every subsequent situation. Historical precedence alone 
should never form the basis for normativeness. "On the basis of 

"Gordon D. Fee, "The Genre of New Testament Literature and Biblical Herme- 
neutics," in Interpreting the Word of God: Festschrift in Honor of Steven Barabas, ed. 
S. J. Schultz and M. A. Inch (Chicago: Moody, 1976) 1 15. 

"Millard Erickson {Christian Theology [3 vols.; Grand Rapids: Baker, 1983-85] 
1 . 1 20 25) has a helpful discussion of the larger question of identifying "timeless truths" 
in Scripture. 

Gordon R. Lewis and Bruce A. Demarest, Integrative Theology (3 vols.; Grand 
Rapids: Zondervan, 1987 ) 1.31. 


precedence alone it is probably not valid to say, 'Therefore, one 
mw5/.'" 35 "Just through being reported as truly happening, no event 
becomes the revelation of God's universal will." 36 

Scriptural Corroboration. Practices based on historical prece- 
dence are most clearly normative if corroborated by principles else- 
where in Scripture. There may not be a specific command addressing 
the situation, but there may well be relevant theological principles 
which can be established from other prescriptive passages. 37 

Noncontradictory. It should be obvious, but for the sake of 
clarity, a principle claiming support from historical narrative cannot 
contradict explicit statements found elsewhere in the epistles. "The 
meaning and principles derived from a story must be consistent with 
all other teachings of Scripture. A deductive principle drawn from a 
narrative which contradicts the teaching of some other scriptural 
passage is invalid." 38 

Consistency and Clarity. It is perhaps valid to defend a given 
practice on the basis of precedence if there is substantial evidence for 
its practice and that pattern can be demonstrated to be the only 
pattern present. A consistent and clear pattern must be established. 
Specifically, polity considerations based on NT example may be valid 
if the matter is both widespread (the actions of many local churches 
reflect such a practice) and unique (it is the only way in which the 
churches did something). "The strongest possible case can be made 
when only one pattern is found . . . , and when that pattern is repeated 
within the New Testament itself." 39 

Positive Versus Negative. In establishing patterns, it must be 
recognized that positive patterns are more clear than negative patterns. 

35 Fee, "The Genre of NT Literature," 1 17. 

36 J. Robertson McQuilkin, "Problems of Normativeness in Scripture: Cultural 
Versus Permanent," in Hermeneutics, Inerrancy, and the Bible, ed. Earl Radmacher 
and Robert Preus (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984) 234. 

37 "For a biblical precedent to justify present action, the principle of the action 
must be taught elsewhere, where it is the primary intent so to teach." Fee, "Genre of 
NT Literature," 118. Although addressing a slightly different issue, the following 
comment is also relevant. "When these injunctions to a specific individual or group 
parallel general teaching found elsewhere, they may be viewed as normative, but not on 
their own strength." McQuilkin, "Normativeness in Scripture," 235. 

Henry A. Virkler, Hermeneutics: Principles and Processes of Biblical Interpreta- 
tion (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1981) 220. Cf. also Lewis and Demarest, Integrative 
Theology, 1.30-31. 

"Fee and Stuart, How to Read the Bible, 102. 


In other words, the fact that something was done is more significant 
than something that was not done, unless the text explicitly and 
emphatically states that a specific action was not involved. Arguments 
from silence are dubious and inconclusive in most instances. 

Intention Versus Incidentals. Exegesis must emphasize the in- 
tention of the passage rather than incidental allusions. 40 Historical 
narrative texts record numerous minor details. Although accurate 
descriptions of what actually happened, they are not to be elevated to 
the primary, didactic level unless the writer is clearly representing 
these details as significant to his primary thesis. 41 On a related matter, 
it should be noted that "extensive passages on a subject take priority 
for theological purposes over brief allusions." 4 

Normative Guidelines and the Question of Polity 

If the NT passages are considered in which a local assembly of 
believers conducts what might be termed "church business," a clear 
pattern emerges apart from the apostolic role. If a clear and con- 
sistent pattern can be established which is consonant with the theo- 
logical principles referred to above, and is within the scope of the 
normative guidelines enumerated above, it would seem to be ques- 
tionable to defend an alternative approach on the basis of pragmatic 
considerations. The following paragraphs will summarize the various 
aspects of functional authority in the local church that are evident in 
the book of Acts and the NT epistles. 44 

40 Fee, "Genre of NT Literature," 1 16. 

41 They may, of course, illustrate specific teaching recorded elsewhere. 
Lewis and Demarest, Integrative Theology, 1.31. 

43 Whether or not something works has little to do with establishing the validity of 
the method employed. The philosophy and methodology of pragmatism is all too 
prevalent in contemporary churches. Godly decisions, however, must be based on 
biblical revelation. Similar to the pragmatic appeal is the claim that it really doesn't 
matter how the church is governed. Edward J. Carnell ("The Government of the 
Church," in Basic Christian Doctrines, ed. C. F. H. Henry [New York: Holt, Rinehart 
and Winston, 1962; reprint, Grand Rapids: Baker, 1971] 252) suggests that "the 
ministry of rule, like other auxiliary ministries of the church, is free to develop its office 
according to the needs of the times. In the actual life of the fellowship, therefore, 
divergent modes of government may emerge. These modes may be the result of rich 
cultural and social influences. Or they may simply grow out of the dictates of ex- 
pediency." Lewis Sperry Chafer (Systematic Theology [8 vols.; Dallas: Dallas Seminary, 
1948] 4.150) likewise says, "church government is a mere convenience which serves a 
limited purpose." 

44 The warning of Carson ("Church, Authority in," 230) needs to be remembered in 
this connection. "Modern models [of church government] are not so much wrong as 
frequently lopsided, favoring a prejudicial selection of the NT data." 


Disciplinary Action 

The NT discusses disciplinary actions of various sorts that might 
be encountered in a local church context. A basic question regarding 
church discipline is critical to the issue of authority and polity: "Who 
has authority to exercise discipline?" A wide diversity of practice can 
be observed in this regard. In some assemblies, the congregation 
exercises this function. In other churches it is handled by the pastor, a 
committee, or by the "board" (whether elders, deacons, or some other 
designation). Is there any biblical pattern? The central passages re- 
garding church discipline in the NT are 1 Corinthians 5 and 6, 2 Cor- 
inthians 2, 2 Thessalonians 3, and 1 Timothy 5. 45 The only aspects of 
these passages which are immediately relevant are those which specify 
the final seat of authority in the local church setting. 

In 1 Corinthians 5 it is obvious that the Lord Jesus is the final 
authority (v 4: ev to) ovouan xou Kupiou fmcov TrjaoO, . . . xfj 5u- 
v&uei toC Kupiou f|u<5v 'Ir|aoO / 'in the name of our Lord Jesus, . . . 
the power of our Lord Jesus'). The concern of this study, however, 
relates to the functional application of Jesus' authority in a local 
assembly of believers. Two factors stand out in the Corinthian 
account. First, the apostle Paul exercises authoritative direction (v 3: 
fj5r| KSKpiKa / 'I have already judged'). Second, that judgment must 
be implemented by the assembled church in Corinth (v 4: auvaxGev- 
xcov uucov / 'when you are gathered'). 

The Corinthians had only two choices. Either obey the apostolic 
directive by disciplining the immoral brother, or disobey by refusing 
to do so. In spite of the clear-cut choice, Paul did not personally 
exercise this discipline. He placed the responsibility (and authority) 
for doing so in the hands of the local congregation. He does not 
charge the pastor (or elders) or the deacons with this task. It is clearly 
a congregational matter. 

2 Corinthians 2 points to a similar picture. The traditional assump- 
tion is that this chapter recounts the restoration of the disciplined 
individual after he repented and sought forgiveness. Paul points out 
that the original punishment was imposed bnb tcov tt^siovcov / 'by the 
majority' (v 6). His instructions regarding forgiveness and restoration 

45 Galatians 6 is certainly also relevant to the matter of discipline. It is not 
considered in this section because there is no explicit reference either to the involve- 
ment of the church corporately, or to the elder(s) of the church. Instead the emphasis is 
on the responsibility of individual Christians (note the use of osauxov, aXX^Xav, 
eauTov, and SKaoxoc; in w 1-5). Certainly church leaders, whatever their designation, 
ought to qualify as part of the uueic; oi Ttveuuaxiicoi / 'you who are spiritual' group, 
but that is perhaps implied, not stated. 

46 Cf. C. F. D. Moule, An Idiom- Book of New Testament Greek (Cambridge: The 
University Press, 1959) 108. Although it might be discussed how this majority 


(vv 7-8) are addressed to the church as a whole (uua<;, the plural 
referring to "the church of God in Corinth," 1:1). 

Paul's instructions in 2 Thessalonians 3 should also be included 
in discussions of church discipline. The Thessalonian problem was 
not immorality but laziness. In such cases the church was to refuse to 
associate with the offending individuals (vv 6-15). Whether or not 
this form of discipline entailed a formal church action as depicted in 
1 Corinthians 5 is unspecified. In any event, the responsibility for 
obedience is placed on the church as a whole. The command (napay- 
ys?iX,co), based on the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ (v 6: ev 
ovoucm xoO Kupiou 'Ir|aoO XpiaxoC / 'in the name of the Lord Jesus 
Christ'), is directed to "you, brothers" (uuiv, dSe^cpoi; identified in 
1:1, 3 as "the church of the Thessalonians"). 

As has already been pointed out, there are no longer apostles 
who continue to propound binding instructions. With no provision 
for the perpetuation of such a role, the church is left with the pattern 
of congregational responsibility and authority in matters of discipline. 

Two remaining areas related to church discipline also evidence 
the same pattern. 1 Corinthians 6 indicates that the church has a 
varied role in arbitrating disputes between members. Although there 
are difficulties in these verses, Paul does appear to place this authority 
in the hands of the church as a whole. Certainly there is no statement 
in the context that authorizes either pastor, deacons or elders to 
function in this way. It is "before the saints" (tni idiv ctyicov, v 1) that 
such matters are to be settled. This may well be implemented by the 
congregation designating a wise individual or individuals to adjudi- 
cate. 48 The point to be made here is that it is the local congregation 
which possesses such authority, not a select group in the church (such 
as the elders). 

Disciplinary action may also at times be necessary against an 
elder according to 1 Tim 5:19-20. An elder is not a "super-saint" 

conducted business, it is clearly a reference to action taken by the congregation: i>nb 
tcov nXziovuiv answering to ouva/SsvTcov uuwv in 1 Cor 5:4. 

This may be, as F. F. Bruce (1 & 2 Thessalonians [Waco: Word, 1982] 210) 
suggests, "a less severe degree of dissociation than that laid down in 1 Cor. 5:9, 11." 

48 Note v 4: ev xfj eKK^rioiq . . . KaGi^eie / 'appoint as judges ... in the church' 
and v 5: outok; ouk evi ev uuiv ouSeic; aocpoc, og Suvfjosxai SiaKpTvai ava ueaov tou 
d§e?t(poC autoO; / 'Thus, is there not even one among you who is able to judge between 
his brother [and his opponent]?' 

Joh. Ed. Huther (Critical and Exegetical Handbook to the Epistles to Timothy 
and Titus, in Meyer's Commentary on the New Testament [\ 1 vols.; Edinburgh: T. & T. 
Clark, 1883; reprint, Winona Lake, Ind.: Alpha, 1979] 9.173) points out the connection 
of these verses with the preceding context: "The apostle now defines the proper conduct 
on Timothy's part towards the presbyters who do not superintend the church Kakihc, but 
expose themselves to blame, thereby doing hurt to their official influence." 


who never sins. He is subject to the same frailties and failures as are 
all of God's people. Yet he is unique in that he holds an official 
church position. 50 The apostle Paul sought to balance these two 
factors and provide the necessary safeguards. Elders may be disci- 
plined, yet if such charges are ever made, they must be handled with 
great care. If an accusation (v 19: Komryopia 51 ) is to be considered, it 
must be substantiated by two or three witnesses. 52 Assuming that this 
charge proves to be valid and worthy of disciplinary action, public 
action (v 20: evtfmiov Tttivtov / 'before all') 53 is to be taken. In this 
case, the discipline takes the form of a rebuke (v 20: e^eyxoo). "The 
imperative 'rebuke' means more than a reprimand; it denotes an 
admission of guilt and the subsequent conviction of the sinner. The 
errant elder must become aware of his wrong and be convinced of 

"This is required, as a special precaution, in the case of the elder, both because 
his position creates a presumption in his favor, and because, as a minister, he is 
peculiarly exposed to malice, and his reputation and influence might be seriously 
injured by the entertaining of a charge, though on the trial he was acquitted. The 
influence of even the best minister might be destroyed, if idle gossip and social tattling 
were accounted a sufficient ground for serious charges and judicial proceedings." H. H. 
Harvey, Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles, First and Second Timothy and Titus; 
and the Epistle to Philemon, in An American Commentary, ed. Alvah Hovey (7 vols.; 
Valley Forge: Judson, 1890) 6.66. 

Robert Gromacki (Stand True to the Charge: An Exposition of 1 Timothy 
[Grand Rapids: Baker, 1982] 146) suggests that this accusation refers to the sin 
identified in Titus' list of elder qualifications: "One Qualification for an elder is that he 
be 'not accused of riot or unruly' (Titus 1:6). The 'accusation' (kategorian) mentioned 
in this verse [1 Tim 5:19] probably refers to that specific type of sin." Titus' comment, 
however, relates to the elder's children, not to the elder himself. Karriyopia should be 
given a wider meaning in this passage. The nature of the accusation is not identified, 
other than if proved valid, it is called auaptia / 'sin'. 

"This is first found in the principle of Deuteronomic law (Deut 17:6; 19:15) and 
reaffirmed by Jesus (Matt 18:16). Paul uses the same principle in 2 Cor 13:1. 

""Public" here is probably before the community of believers, not "those without" 
(tow e^coGev, 1 Tim 3:7). However, Huther (Handbook, 173-74) would restrict this 
even further: "The most natural reference of navTsq ... is to the presbyters. ... It 
would clearly be too much to expect that Timothy should punish all sinners before the 
whole church . . . ; that would be unsuitable, even in the case of presbyters who had 
sinned." Cf. also Ralph Earle, "1 Timothy," in Expositors Bible Commentary [here- 
after: EBC] 11.381. The general tenor of the NT passages dealing with discipline 
suggests, however, that such action would be suitable before the whole church. Harvey 
(Pastoral Epistles, 67) notes that "the public position of the offenders made their sin 
public, and there was, therefore, the more danger of its infecting others. A public 
rebuke in such case would at once vindicate the church from complicity with the sin, 
and deter others from falling into it . . . Here he speaks of a formal church censure, 
after due public conviction, and which therefore would be administered as from the 
church." Cf. also Henry Alford, The Greek Testament, ed. E. F. Harrison (4 vols.; 
Chicago: Moody, 1958) 3.353. 


it." 54 This also serves as a warning to the other elders (01 Xoircoi), 55 of 
whom there were a plurality at Ephesus (Acts 20:17). 

The question that remains relates to the vestiture of such author- 
ity. In 1 Timothy 5, it is given to Timothy himself as an apostolic 
representative. 56 Timothy is nowhere called the pastor of the church 
in Ephesus, nor do any statements imply that he functioned as such. 
The other elders at Ephesus (who were not involved in a particular 
disciplinary charge) are pictured as observers rather than as admini- 
strators of the discipline. It is thus illegitimate to consign this disci- 
plinary authority to the pastoral office. Since there are no longer 
apostles (or apostolic representatives) and since the elders appear to 
be outside the picture in 1 Timothy, it appears that the only possible 
choice is to vest such authority in the church corporately. 

Inter-Church Relationships 

Several instances of inter-church relationships can be seen in the 
NT. The three key passages in this case are Acts 15 and 18, and 
2 Corinthians 8. 

In Acts 15 a major doctrinal issue is the focus of quite sharp 
debate in the church at Antioch. The questions raised were not able 
to be resolved even with an apostle present. 57 To resolve the circum- 
cision/salvation issue, the church undertakes a cooperative "problem 
resolution" effort with the "mother church" in Jerusalem. Paul and 
Barnabas (along with several others) are appointed (cxa^av 58 ) to 

"Gromacki, Stand True, 148. 

55 The oi Xoittov / 'the rest' could conceivably refer to the other members of the 
church, but the context favors limiting the reference to the other elders. The principle, 
of course, is true of the entire church, but this is not explicitly stated here (as it is in 
Acts 5:11). 

56 Both imperatives in 1 Tim 5:19-20 are second person singular: TtapaSe/ou, 
eAxyxc- On the basis of 1 Thess 1:1; 2:6 it is also possible to view Timothy (along with 
Silas) as an apostle. Some argue for a nontechnical use of ditoaxo^oq in this context 
but still maintain apostolic authority despite their not having seen the risen Christ. Cf. 
Robert L. Thomas, "1,2 Thessalonians," in EBC, 1 1.253. 

"it could well be that there were several apostles present if Barnabas is accorded 
apostolic status equal with Paul (as Acts 14:14 would seem to imply). 

Aorist indicative active of T&aoo). The subject of this verb is not specified in the 
sentence. The antecedent must be the dSe^opouq / 'brothers' of Acts 15:1. This is further 
clarified by the explanatory SKKXrioiac, / 'church' in v 3. Note also the verb used to 
describe the relationship of these messengers to the sending church: 7rpo7teu<p9evT£c; / 
'those who were sent'. npoji£U7UD could be used merely to specify the financial assistance 
provided for their journey (as in Rom 15:24), but in conjunction with xctooco / 'to 
appoint' (v 2) it is probably broader and includes the local church authorization as 
well. "The reference in v 3 to being sent 'by the church' (hypo tes ekklesias) gives the 
context for Luke's use of elaxan, so that we should understand 'they' as signifying the 
involvement of the entire congregation at Antioch and its leaders in the appointment." 
Richard N. Longenecker, "The Acts of the Apostles," in EBC, 9.443. 


represent the church of Antioch. In the course of events described in 
this chapter the apostles and elders take the lead in considering the 
question. 59 The comment by James (v 19) should not be taken in a 
legal sense as if he were personally issuing an authoritative verdict, 
but rather as an expression of his personal opinion or judgment in the 
matter. 60 As one would expect, the wording formulated by a key 
leader is accepted as the appropriate summary of the group delibera- 
tion. The matter does not rest at this point, however. Luke's record 
again returns to the congregations, both in Jerusalem and in Antioch 
(note vv 22, 30). As sister churches worked together in the resolution 
of a doctrinal matter, the final authority in each instance was lodged 
in the church corporately, even though the apostles and elders play 
key leadership and deliberative roles. 

Another instance of inter-church relationships can be observed 
in Acts 18, though not in the detail of chap. 15. Apollos is the key 
figure in this instance. At Ephesus his limited knowledge of the gospel 
message is greatly expanded under the tutelage of Priscilla and Aquila. 
When he later desires to minister in Achaia, where there was already 
a church in existence, the brothers in Ephesus provided both the 
encouragement and opportunity to do so. As Apollos was yet com- 
paratively unknown, the Ephesian church provided him with a letter 
of introduction and reference to the believers in Achaia. Although the 
specific details as to how such a letter was drafted or authorized are 
not known, Luke presents it as a church-to-church situation. 

The charitable collection for the Jerusalem church in their time 
of distress also illustrates the interrelationships of the early churches. 

Note especially vv 6 and 22-23. Peter and James are particularly prominent in 
their leadership role within the larger group (7rfiv to n\\\Qoc,) of apostles and elders. Or 
does rcav to 7t?ifi9o<; refer to the church, as Gilmore ("Does the Bible Teach Congre- 
gational Rule?" Baptist Bulletin [Feb. 1987] 15) asserts? "Inferred here is the idea that 
the multitude had just finished listening to Peter. In other words, the apostles and 
elders were not in executive session." That is a possible conclusion, but not one 
mandated by the text. 

The translation of Kpivco by the word judgment (NIV and NASB) or judge 
(NKJV) is preferable to the traditional sentence (KJV). Cf. BAGD 451. 

"The case is laid before the apostles and elders (15:4); 'the apostles and elders, 
with the whole church' (15:22), make the final decisions; and the apostles and elders 
write the letter (15:23). Peter speaks as an apostle, James as an elder; it is not obvious 
that either 'chaired' the meeting. But even if James did so, the crucial decisions were 
taken by the apostles, elders, and the church in concert." D. A. Carson, "Church, 
Authority," 229. This does not appear to correlate with John MacArthur's contention 
that the elders "are to determine doctrinal issues for the church" and that they are "to 
determine church policy (Acts 15:22)" (Questions about Elders [Panorama City, Calif.: 
Word of Grace Communications, 1984] 12, 13). 

Although the word EKKXr)aia / 'church' does not appear, that is the obvious 
reference of oi d8e?apoi / 'the brothers' and Tovq [iaQr\xalq / 'the disciples' in v 27. Such 
matters were probably handled much more informally in the early church than is the 
tradition in many churches today. 


Paul's comments in 2 Corinthians 8 are written in that context. As 
part of his efforts to avoid any suspicion or criticism in the way the 
funds were being handled (vv 20-21), several men were jointly ad- 
ministering the collection. The first trustee was Titus. Although the 
second man is unknown by name, he is described as x^poiovriGeic; 
vnb xcov ckk^ouov / 'chosen by the churches'. Although xsipotoveco 
can mean simply 'appoint', it is more likely in the present context that 
it designates an official vote of the church. 63 (Ignatius frequently uses 
the same word in referring to similar instances in which church 
envoys are elected to represent the home church in matters relating to 
a congregation in another city. 64 ) This would imply that Paul con- 
sidered congregational authority to be the proper basis for such 
matters. The congregational pattern in inter-church affairs appears to 
be the only one known in the NT. 

Intra-Church Affairs 

In two passages from Acts the local workings of the NT church 
can be observed. Both the Jerusalem church (in chap. 6) and the 
Antiochean church (in chap. 13) illustrate once again the congre- 
gational basis of NT polity. 

From a polity perspective, Acts 6:1-6 can be quickly summar- 
ized. 65 The church faced a significant problem. The Twelve, who were 

Historically, the etymology of the word included the idea of raising or extending 
the hand (/eip + teivco). Although the hand gesture soon became "optional" (in that 
other means were used, and this as early as the 5th century B.C. [Lohse, TDNT, 9.437]), 
the sense of popular election was retained. The usual meaning ("choose, elect by raising 
hands, then gener., esp. of election or selection for definite offices or tasks," BAGD, 
881) is probably in view in 2 Corinthians 8. The very broad sense of 'appoint' is 
possible (normally the subject is explicitly identified if this is the case), but unlikely. If 
so the emphasis is on the elected (means unspecified) representative's official appoint- 
ment to his task by the local church or churches involved. Paul's emphasis on avoiding 
criticism would seem to demand a broad based election instead of selection by the 
elders alone (as MacArthur [Questions about Elders, 20] assumes). The reference to 
elders being appointed by Paul and Barnabas in Acts 14:23 illustrates the use of 
^eipOTOvsco in the sense "appoint," but that does not affect the current discussion. As 
apostles they had authority to do so. The passage cannot be used to argue that elders 
are to be appointed rather than elected by the congregation. "Appointment" in the 
post-apostolic era simply raises the question as to who has such apostolic authority. 

6 The references can be found in BAGD 881. Given the radical shift in emphasis 
by Ignatius on the authority of the bishop (when compared, e.g., with Polycarp and 
Clement) it is significant that he maintained congregational authority in such inter- 
church matters. The Didache also uses xeipOTOvew to refer to churches electing/ choos- 
ing their own overseers and deacons: Xeipoxovfiacrre ouv eauxoic, kmoKonovc, Kcti 
SiaKovoui; / 'therefore, elect for yourselves overseers and deacons' (15.1). 

"That is not to say that this is an easy section to interpret otherwise. For an 
exceedingly helpful discussion of the other difficulties, cf. Longenecker, EBC, 9.326-32. 


the only "official" leaders in the church at this point, were not able to 
personally handle the additional oversight necessary to resolve the 
matter. They did, however, propose a solution. This recommendation 
was presented to the entire group of believers, referred to in v 2 as to 
nXf\Qoq x&v ua0r)T(ov / 'the assembly of disciples'. 66 The believers 
(here called a5e?opoi / 'brothers') were advised to select from their 
own number a group of seven men to administer the debated needs. 
The congregational involvement is evident in the implementation of 
this solution recorded in v 5: fipsoev 6 Xoyoc, evcbruov navxbc, tou 
7rXf|9ou<; / 'the word pleased the whole assembly' 67 and also e^sAi- 
^avxo / 'they chose'. That the apostles laid their hands on the men 
selected by the assembly does not detract from the congregational 
emphasis. 69 With the apostles still on the scene exercising their God- 
given authority over the church one would expect no less. The laying 
on of hands designated the apostles' approval and authorization for 
these men to exercise the delegated authority. 70 In this instance it is 
noteworthy that a congregational emphasis is present even with 
apostles present. 

Acts 13 begins as a local matter, but eventuates in the first of the 
Pauline missionary journeys. Only three verses describe the church 
proceedings in Antioch — the clipped style prompting wishes for more 
detail. The situation is generally clear. The church is being served by 
five men described as 7ipo<pf]Tai icai 5i8aaKa?ioi / 'prophets and 
teachers' (v l). 72 During a meeting of the church, 73 a prophetic oracle 

Cf. the discussion of to nXf\Qoq and its parallel in the Qumran community in 
ibid., 9.332 and the references there. 

67 This awkward phrase is a semitism arising from the spoken Jewish-Greek. Cf. 
BDF, p. 3, n. 5. It is nicely expressed by the NIV's "This proposal pleased the whole 

68 The third plural carries on the reference to navxbq toO 7tXf|9ou<;. 

69 "'Whom they set before the apostles' makes the impression that it took some 
time to effect the election, and that the apostles entrusted the election entirely to the 
congregation. They, too, were the ones to be satisfied. After the election had been held, 
these seven were certified as the congregation's choice." R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpre- 
tation of the Acts of the Apostles (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1934) 246. 

These may well be the first deacons, although that conclusion (not explicitly 
stated in the text) is not necessary to the establishment of the congregational polity 
illustrated here. Elders, of course, are not mentioned by title until Acts 1 1:30. 

71 Longenecker, EBC, 9.417. 

72 The relationship of each of the five men to the two descriptive words is debated. 
For the possible conclusions, cf. Longenecker, EBC, 9.416 and I. Howard Marshall, 
The Acts of the Apostles: An Introduction and Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 

73 The subject of ^EixoupyouvTcov / 'worshiping' (v 2) is not specified. It seems best 
to conclude that it refers to the service of the entire church, not just the prophets and 
teachers. Cf. Marshall, Acts, 215 and Longenecker, EBC, 9.416. 


directs that Barnabas and Saul be set apart for a special ministry. The 
polity question revolves around the identity of those who commis- 
sioned Barnabas and Saul in v 3. "We may infer from the parallel 
usage in 15:2 .. . and from the descriptions of early church govern- 
ment in 6:2-6 and 15:4-30 . . . that the whole congregation, together 
with its leaders, was involved in attesting the validity of the revelation 
received, laid hands on the missioners, and set them out." If this is 
the proper conclusion, then the congregational pattern seen elsewhere 
in Acts remains consistent. 


There is no didactic text in the NT which gives specific instruc- 
tions regarding church polity, hence the importance of the theological 
principles and NT examples summarized above. One major passage 
proposed as a basis for elder rule is 1 Tim 5:17. 

This verse does not contradict the principle of congregational 
government. It teaches that every elder should both rule and teach, 
and emphasizes the elder's duty to study diligently in order to teach. 
As Kent says, "This verse does not give sufficient warrant for the 
Reformed view of two classes of elders, those who ruled and those 
who taught. Every elder engaged in teaching (3:2). However, some 
would do so with more energy and excellence than others." 75 There 
are no ruling elders distinct from teaching elders in the biblical sense, 
though unfortunately this has been assumed in many churches. 7 

Longenecker, EBC, 9.417. Likewise Everett F. Harrison (Interpreting Acts, 2nd 
ed. [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1986] 215-16): "What persons are being indicated by 
the phrase 'While they were worshipping the Lord — the prophets and teachers or the 
church? Since the praying and sending forth of two from this group was almost 
certainly undertaken by the church as a whole (v. 3) and no change of subject is 
indicated from verse 2, it is probable that the ministering (or worshipping) applies to 
the congregation. If the ministering were intended to refer to the gifted men only, it 
would be natural to say that they were ministering to the church rather than to the 
Lord. Furthermore, it is questionable that the Holy Spirit would reveal His will for the 
church to the leaders only rather than to the entire congregation assembled for 
worship." Cf. also F. F. Bruce (The Acts of the Apostles: The Greek Text with 
Introduction and Commentary, 2nd ed. [London: Tyndale, 1952] 254): "The whole 
church sent them forth, and it was to the whole church that they gave their report when 
they returned. Cf. xiv.26f." 

75 Homer A. Kent, The Pastoral Epistles (Chicago: Moody, 1958) 181-82. 

76 Contra Glasscock ("The Biblical Concept of Elder," BSac 144/573 [1987] 77): 
"All elders are to be 'able to teach' . . . , but [1 Tim] 5: 17 seems to imply a more formal 
type of public exhortation not expected of all the elders." There is considerable 
diversity even among those who contend for a distinction. For representative positions, 
note the following: Bornkamm, TDNT, 6.667; Patrick Fairbairn, Commentary on the 
Pastoral Epistles (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1874; reprint, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 
1956) 213; and William Hendrickson, Exposition of the Pastoral Epistles (Grand 
Rapids: Baker, 1957) 179. 


The terms 'teaching elder' and 'ruling elder' do not appear his- 
torically until Calvin. 1 Tim 5:17 refers to elders who are ruling 
well — not to a class of "ruling elders." The noun is ol 7ip8o(3ui8poi, 
modified by the participle Trposaxdhec;, which is further qualified by 
the adjective kclXuh;. It is thus the "well-ruling elders," not the "good, 
ruling-elders." To create two classes of elders also ignores the force of 
the superlative adverb pd^iaxa. Paul contends that an elder who rules 
well is worthy of double honor. This is "especially" (ud^iota) true, he 
says, of those elders who not only rule well, but also labor in the 
word and doctrine. He is not referring to two separate classes of 
elders, but rather indicating in a comparative manner how worthy 
they really are. "This text only shows that one office of presbyter or 
bishop involved two kinds of labor, and that certain presbyters or 
bishops were more successful in one kind than in the other." 

The responsibility to rule in 1 Tim 5:17 can be understood in the 
context of the home (tou iSiou oikou KaXibc, Ttpoiaiauevov / 'the one 
who manages his own household well'), carried over from 3:4-5, 78 or 
in the context of the duties of the overseer's realm of authority in the 
church (3:1). 79 The latter option seems more likely. When the pastor's 
teaching ministry is applied to his leadership role as an overseer he 
will be able to equip the members of the congregation for spyov 
Siaicoviac; / 'a work of ministry' (Eph 4:1 1-12). The church will pros- 
per when individuals besides the pastor function in administration, 
exhortation, showing mercy, evangelism, etc. They may be able (when 
properly equipped) to have a ministry which is potentially more 
effective than even the pastor in those ministries. It is for this reason 
that this particular kind of elder (who applies his teaching gift to 
"ruling") is worthy of double honor. 

MacArthur's use of this passage also needs to be examined. He 
asserts that the word 7rpoioxr|pi in 1 Tim 5:17 and elsewhere author- 
izes the elders to govern the church. There appears to be little or no 
accountability to the congregation in his system. He states, "As those 
who rule in the church, elders are not subject to any higher authority 
outside the local assembly." 80 This statement might be taken to mean 
that they are subject to the authority of the local assembly, but that is 
apparently not his intention. In the preceding context he has stated 

77 A. H. Strong, Systematic Theology (Old Tappan, NJ: Revell, 1907) 915. 

78 This passage is the only other use of 7ipo'iarr|ui in relation to the elder (technically 
inioKonoq / 'overseer' in 1 Timothy, and the only reference which specifically states 
what it is that the elder is to rule. 

79 The only passage that may directly link the use of the word 7ipoicn:r|ui with both 
the elders and the church is 1 Thess 5:12: eiSevou xoug KorciibvTCK; ev uuiv Kcti TipovoTa- 
uevouc; uucov ev Kupicp Kai vodGstoOvtcic; uuai; / 'respect those who labor among you 
and rule over you in the Lord and admonish you'. 

80 MacArthur, Questions about Elders, 12. Cf. also the quotation in n. 27, above. 


with regard to elders that "there is no higher court of appeal, and no 
greater resources to know the mind and heart of God with regard to 
issues in the church." 81 In an earlier syllabus the statement is made 
that "There is no higher earthly authority in the New Testament than 
the Elders of the local assembly." 82 A congregational qualification is 
appended a few pages later in the syllabus. "The congregation will 
(and has the right to) react negatively to non-unanimous decisions, 
but cannot argue with effect against unanimity in the Spirit." 83 While 
the present writer would certainly concur with the congregation's 
right to intervene, the narrow window of authority granted above 
(only when the elders are not in unanimous agreement) does not do 
justice to the biblical principles of congregational authority. 

The evidence cited to support these contentions is not accurate. 
MacArthur asserts, "The Greek word translated 'rule' in that verse 
[1 Tim 5:17] is proistemi, used to speak of the elders' responsibilities 
four times in 1 Timothy (3:4, 5, 12; 5:17), once in 1 Thessalonians 
5:12 ... , and once in Romans 12:8." The problems are three. Two 
of the references relate to the elders' responsibility in the home, not 
the church (1 Tim 3:4, 5). Another text cited (1 Tim 3:12) relates to 
deacons (and also to domestic responsibilities), not to elders. The 
Thessalonian passage does not specify that it is restricted to elders. It 
certainly includes them, but may also include deacons, or perhaps 
even civil authorities. Likewise Rom 12:8 is not necessarily a reference 
to elders. The reference there is to someone with the spiritual gift of 
leadership — they may or may not be an elder. 

These considerations leave one explicit use of 7tpoio"Tr|ui in rela- 
tion to the church, and two others by implication. The question still 
remains, however, as to the extent of the authority implied. It certainly 
cannot be an absolute, unlimited authority in every area of church 
(and church member) life. The only areas of authority specified in this 
text are the word and doctrine (koyca kcu StSaoKaXia) — certainly 
insufficient statements upon which to base elder-rule as opposed to 
congregational government. 

When the various aspects of the passage are considered, 1 Tim 
5:17 relates, not to church polity as such, but rather to the role and 
responsibility of the elders for ministry within local assemblies of 


The term 'plurality of elders' is usually associated with a polity 
which vests ecclesiastical authority in the TrpeapVcepiov / 'council of 

81 Ibid., 11. 

MacArthur and Barshaw, Leading the Flock, 32. 
"Ibid., 36. 

MacArthur, Questions about Elders, 11. 


elders'. Regardless of the conclusion to which one comes on the 
plurality issue, the preceding paragraphs have sought to demonstrate 
that congregational polity must be maintained if NT doctrine and 
example are to be heeded. It is possible for a church to minister with 
a plurality of elders and still maintain a congregational form of 
church government. It is also possible to maintain the congregation's 
authority under a single pastor. Neither conclusion regarding plurality 
resolves all questions of polity. Nor does a congregational conclusion 
regarding polity decide the issue of plurality of elders. Questions 
regarding both polity and plurality need to be considered and inter- 
related on a biblical basis. 

Grace Theologicat Journal 9.2 (1988) 279-285 


The Text of the New Testament 

Daniel B. Wallace 

The Text of the New Testament, by Kurt and Barbara Aland. Translated 
by Erroll F. Rhodes. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans/ Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1987. 
Pp. xviii + 338. $29.95. Cloth. 

With the long-awaited translation of Der Text des Neuen Testaments 
(1982), English-speaking students may now share in the debt of gratitude 
owed to the well-known German scholars, Kurt and Barbara Aland. The 
five-year delay, due to a number of complications, has resulted in more than 
a translation; the English edition "represents a revision of the original Ger- 
man edition of 1982" (translator's preface, viii). 

Though modeled after Wiirthwein's Der Text des Alten Testaments (ET: 
The Text of the Old Testament [1979]), the NT counterpart tends to be more 
practical since a follow-up volume by Kurt Aland for advanced students is in 
the present time (Uberlieferung und Text des Neuen Testaments: Handbuch 
der modernen Textkritik). Nevertheless, the advanced student and scholar 
alike can profit from this volume: the computer-generated/ assisted tables, 
charts, and collations are, by themselves, worth the price of the book, 
representing the equivalent of countless thousands of man-hours. This could 
only have been produced at the Institute for New Testament Textual Re- 
search in Munster. 

Besides sixty-five plates (all but three of various NT manuscripts), eight 
tables and six charts (including one two-sided detached fold-out), the Alands 
have provided the essentials for a thorough introduction to textual criticism: 
an overview of the history of the printed NT text — from Erasmus to Nestle- 
Aland 26 (=UBSGNT 3 ); a discussion of the interrelation of early church 
history and NT textual criticism (our appetites are barely whet, however, in 
the twenty-four pages on this topic); a description of the extant Greek 
manuscripts, as well as Greek patristic evidence (it should be noted here that 
readers of Metzger's Text of the New Testament will find this chapter to be 

I wish to thank Dr. J. K. Elliott, of the University of Leeds (Great Britain), for 
examining the first draft of this review and for making several corrections. 

B. M. Metzger, The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, 
and Restoration, 2d ed (Oxford: Oxford University, 1968). 


quite complementary: whereas Metzger describes in greater detail a few of the 
more important MSS, the Alands treat us to a seemingly exhaustive list of 
MSS — though giving only the cold, hard facts in each case); a brief presenta- 
tion of the versional evidence (and non-Greek patristic evidence); expansions 
and clarifications of the introductions in UBSGNT 3 , Kurt Aland's two syn- 
opses, 3 and especially NA 26 ; resources (perhaps too brief) for NT textual 
criticism; and finally, principles and praxis of textual criticism, orienting 
almost all of the discussion around real examples. 

Positive Observations 

The Alands' work includes an extremely helpful and detailed collection 
of data — almost all of which is found in chapter 3 ("The Manuscripts of the 
Greek New Testament" [72-180]). For example, tables 7 and 8 show that the 
Byzantine text did not become the majority text until the ninth century (as 
far as extant witnesses reveal). The many plates interspersed throughout this 
chapter give almost a 'hands-on' feel for textual criticism. But most sig- 
nificantly, in the descriptive list of MSS, each MS is listed by textual affinity 
(though the groupings are far from the traditional text-types). Further, the 
Alands demonstrate their assessment by comparing test-passage readings in 
the MSS against the Byzantine reading and against the reading of NA 26 
(which they gratuitously call "the original text"). For example, Vaticanus 
shares only nine non-original readings with the Byzantine text-type in the 
gospels, but has 196 non-Byzantine 'original' readings (note that these num- 
bers relate only to the test passages, not to the entire gospel text of B.) In 
Paul and the Catholic epistles, B has a slightly lower percentage of non- 
Byzantine 'original' readings and a slightly higher percentage of Byzantine 
'non-original' readings. This kind of information (based on computer-assisted 
collations) is invaluable in helping the student to see textual consanguinity in 
a moment's notice. This is especially the case among the minuscules where 
the Alands list over 150, the vast majority of which would not fit into the 
mainstream of the Byzantine text-type ("those with a developed Byzantine 
text have been omitted ..." [135]). 

Second, chapter 2 ("The Transmission of the Greek New Testament" 
[48-71] begins to fill a much needed void in text-critical studies (though the 
treatment here is hardly more than an outline). As the Alands state, "New 
Testament textual criticism has traditionally neglected the findings of early 
Church history, but only to its own injury, because the transmission of the 
New Testament text is certainly an integral part of that history" (49). In 
particular, the relation of the canon to textual criticism and the continued 
paring down of centers for Greek MS production 4 are important considera- 
tions for the textual critic. 

3 Synopsis Quattuor Evangeliorum, 12th ed (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelstiftung. 
1982) and Synopsis of the Four Gospels, 7th ed (Stuttgart: German Bible Society, 

4 That is to say, as time went on, the production of Greek MSS of the NT became 
more centralized (and more uniform); the many small local scriptoria gave way to the 
few larger ones. 


Third, students of the Greek NT will especially appreciate chapter 5 
("Introduction to the Use of Modern Editions" [218-62]), for the Alands go 
to great lengths to clarify what is in the standard 'pocket' edition of the NT, 
Nestle- Aland 26 . A profound appreciation for German concision is gained 
from this chapter: the symbols and abbreviations found in the apparatus as 
well as the inner and outer margins of NA 26 , if spelled out, could well fill ten 
volumes! Much of the material in this chapter does not properly belong to a 
work on textual criticism, but it is nevertheless a great help to the student 
who, having read the Introduction in NA 26 (39*-78*), still needs assistance in 
using this Greek NT to its maximum potential. 

Fourth, it is refreshing to see two respected German NT scholars ada- 
mantly reject appeals to conjectural emendation, textual rearrangement, or 
excision ("the way in which chapter 21 has been attached to the gospel of 
John argues against any such complex theories as Rudolf Bultmann's, for 
example" [292]). 5 

Finally, the twelve principles of textual criticism and the very concrete 
examples of these principles in operation in chapter 7 give the work a very 
pragmatic thrust and help in illustrating the principles by which Kurt Aland 
has come to his text-critical decisions as reflected in (his contribution to) the 
text of NA26-UBSGNT3. 6 

Negative Observations 

For those who have been introduced to NT textual criticism by reading 
Metzger's Text of the New Testament, with its copious and careful documen- 
tation, the Alands' text will appear to be taking a step backwards. There is no 
bibliography and the footnoting is at best substandard. A veritable avalanche 
of text-critical dissertations, articles, books and Festschriften have been pro- 
duced since Metzger's second edition went to press. Perhaps Kurt Aland's 
forthcoming Uberlieferung und Text will update the bibliography, but it is 
difficult to hold back some sense of disappointment in the present volume on 
this score. 

Second, the lack of documentation of this work seems to be matched 
only by its lack of irenic spirit. As significant as the Institute for New 
Testament Textual Research is for the discipline — E. J. Epp once lamented 
the probability that there are more bona fide textual critics at the Institute 
than in all of North America! — one gets the impression that almost no one 
outside the Institute has contributed much of worth to textual criticism in the 
last two decades. Gordon Fee and Eldon Epp are cited only incidentally in 

5 See other comments on the Pauline corpus on 291-92. 

Especially to be noted is the emphasis in these principles on external evidence as 
normally taking precedence over internal criteria and that "A constantly maintained 
familiarity with New Testament manuscripts themselves is the best training for textual 
criticism" (276). 

7 "The Twentieth Century Interlude in New Testament Textual Criticism," JBL 93 
(1974) 414. See also his follow-up essay which elaborates on this point, "New Testa- 
ment Textual Criticism in America: Requiem for a Discipline," JBL 98 (1979) 94-98. 


one footnote (95); J. K. Elliott and J. N. Birdsall are ignored; G. D. Kil- 
patrick is cited but twice. Conversely, Zane C. Hodges and Arthur L. Farstad, 
editors of The Greek New Testament According to the Majority Text, are 
mentioned four times — all pejoratively. Obviously a scholarly work needs to 
critique other views. The tenor in which the critique is done, however, 
coupled with the overly dogmatic stance, will not be of great benefit to the 
undiscerning student. On the one hand, some may reject the Alands' view- 
points because of their attitude. This would be a tragedy, for Kurt and 
Barbara Aland are scholars whose opinions deserve the weightiest considera- 
tion. On the other hand, some students may buy both the arguments and the 
attitude, thinking that nothing else needs to be said about the subject. 8 

Third, much of the Alands' viewpoint is open to criticism in six major 
areas: (1) Their dismissal of the validity and early date of the 'western' text, 
for example (cf. 54-55, 18 Iff.), is based on the premises that (a) since it does 
not clearly show up in the early papyri (though P 29 , P 38 , and P 68 seem to 
contradict this), it is not early, and (b) the Itala, since they are not in Greek, 
do not constitute primary witnesses to any text-type. As much good as the 
Alands have done in stressing the tremendous importance of the early papyri, 
perhaps their assessment of these exclusively Egyptian MSS as giving an 
accurate picture of the overall transmission of the text in the first three 
centuries is overly generous. The versional and especially patristic evidence 
through the third century coupled with relatively sparse and certainly provin- 
cial Greek MS evidence for the same period (less than fifty MSS, the vast 
majority of which are mere fragments) ought to caution against funneling 
everything through the sands of Egypt. (This, of course, is not to say that the 
Byzantine text-type is early for theories must be based on evidence, not 
arguments from silence.) 

(2) The test-passage method for determining textual consanguinity is an 
imperfect and, at times misleading, method. For example, the Alands found 
only one place (among their test passages) in Luke where P 75 had a non- 
original (i.e., a reading not found in the text of NA 26 ) Byzantine reading (95), 

To some degree, this volume tends to be, rather than a handbook on textual 
criticism, a vindication of NA 26 (not UBSGNT 3 , in spite of their claim of objectivity 
about the two texts [219]) in terms of its text, apparatus, and general layout. This is 
clearly seen in the final chapter: in virtually all of the examples of scribal corruption 
given, the Alands speak dogmatically about what the original read. They give little 
incentive here for others to do textual criticism; in fact, one gets the distinct impression 
that NT textual criticism is soon to become obsolete since it has almost attained a state 
of perfection. 

Part of the reason that the 'western 1 text is viewed this way by the Alands is their 
regard for the versional (and, to some degree, patristic) evidence as merely of sup- 
plementary help in informing text-critical decisions. 

Cf. F. Wisse, The Profile Method for Classifying and Evaluating Manuscript 
Evidence, vol 44 of Studies and Documents, ed I. A. Sparks (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 
1982) 21-22 for a specific critique; and B. D. Ehrman, "Methodological Developments 
in the Analysis and Classification of New Testament Documentary Evidence," NovT 29 
(1987) 22-45 for a more general discussion. Ehrman 's article not only shows the 
inadequacies of several methods used to determine textual affinities, but gives a positive 
approach to the whole program which he calls "The Complete Profile Method." 


yet in H. A. Sturz's more exhaustive research into the early papyri-Byzantine 
alignments, ten such places were noted. No one would, of course, call P 75 a 
Byzantine MS, but even this venerated MS has some allies beyond those the 
test-passage method would suggest. The drawbacks of this method limit the 
usefulness of the descriptive lists of Greek MSS in chapter 3. 

(3) The Alands have misrepresented the view held by Hodges and Farstad 
(editors of The Greek New Testament According to the Majority Text)} 2 They 
call it a "return to the Textus Receptus of Erasmus . . ." (vii), though in reality 
there are almost 2000 differences between the Majority Text and the TR. The 
Alands' misunderstanding of the Hodges-Farstad text is evident in their 
discussion of "Verses Omitted in the 'Standard Text'" (292-300) where they 
specifically intend to interact with the Majority Text, for of the fifteen passages 
they discuss, four are also missing in the Majority Text though found in 
the TR! 

(4) As helpful as their "Twelve Basic Rules for Textual Criticism" (275- 
77) are, not only are some debatable (e.g., their fifth principle is that "the 
versions and Fathers [serve] no more than a supplementary and corroborative 
function" [275]; their eleventh rule ['lectio brevior'] they are cautious not to 
apply mechanically, but they nowhere mention that for unintentional errors 
the longer reading is often to be preferred), but one of the rules is not even 
followed entirely by Kurt Aland himself. The seventh principle ("that the 
original reading may be found in any single manuscript or version when it 
stands alone or nearly alone is only a theoretical possibility" [276]) is over- 
turned in several places in NA 26 . For example, in Matt 8:18 NA 26 has o%A.ov 
which is supported only by B sa mss ; in Luke 17:23 the reading eicei oo i5ou coSe 
is found only in P 75 B; in John 5:2 NA 26 reads |3r|0^a0a, though it is supported 
only by X 33 (it 1 ) Eusebius (Cyril) (thus, only two Greek MSS with additional 
'corroborative' support); oxpioTogo ir|aou<; in Acts 17:3 is found only in B 
and, perhaps, sa mss (though the latter are not mentioned in NA 26 ); Rev 18:3 
reads 7t£7ta)Kav which has only two minuscules as its total support (1006 c 2329) 
according to NA 26 (though UBSGNT 3 adds 1828; Hoskier lists 1828 and 
2321 ; 13 and, most surprisingly, in Rev 21:17 NA 26 reads eKaxov tsoaspa- 
Kovxa xeadapcov, duplicating a conjecture found in Westcott-Hort which has, 
according to Hoskier, no MS support (that there is a textual problem here is 
not mentioned either in the NA 26 apparatus, nor the UBSGNT 3 apparatus, 
nor in Metzger's Textual Commentary). Apparently, theoretical possibility 
has become a reality in a few (albeit very few) places in NA 26 . 

(5) Overlapping with the criticism above is the much higher emphasis on 
external evidence than on internal criteria. (This can be seen clearly by the 

n The Byzantine Text-Type and New Testament Textual Criticism (Nashville: 
Thomas Nelson, 1984) 147-49. 

12 2d edition (Thomas Nelson, 1985). 

13 J. K. Elliott has informed me that here Hoskier is in error — i.e., for 2321 [=200 
in Hoskier's system] in Hoskier we should understand 2329 (cf. Elliott's forthcoming 
conversion table in JTS). 

'"Although their emphasis on external evidence has already been mentioned as a 
positive point, it is the overemphasis coupled with the negligible treatment of internal 
evidence to which I am objecting here. 


lay-out of the book: internal considerations are discussed only in chapter 
seven and there only under praxis — no theory is developed for doing internal 

(6) There are a small number of fairly significant misleading statements 
as well as overstatements: (a) the first two tables (29-30) show the agreements 
among seven major editions of the NT in the last 100+ years (table 1) and the 
disagreements between NA 25 and these other six (table 2). The amount of 
variant-free verses (between 45 and 81% for every book in the NT) seems 
incredibly high, but the Alands qualify it by not counting orthographical 
variants or verses "in which any one of the seven editions differs by a single 
word...''' (29, italics added). Many of these verses are not variant-free, 
therefore, even though they are called such. 

(b) The Alands surprisingly claim that "a comparison of the critical 
apparatuses of Tischendorf and Nestle-Aland 26 shows that the latter offers all 
the variants cited in Tischendorf (and even more) ..." (37, italics added). It is 
true that the MS discoveries since 1869 have produced more variants, many 
of which have been incorporated into the apparatus of NA 26 . But a quick 
check on a few passages reveals that this claim is an overstatement much, if 
not most, of the time: in Eph 6:17, NA 26 records only the omission to the 
reading §£^ao9e, while Tischendorf also reveals the significant variant Se^ao- 
9ai (whether one adopts the imperative or infinitive in this text can effect the 
structure of the whole pericope); in Gal 3:20, NA 26 lists no variants while 
Tischendorf records oyap as a variant for o5e. A random check of Tischen- 
dorf produced an example on p. 437 (vol. 2) regarding Rom 14:1 -4a: in 
addition to the variants listed in NA 26 , Tischendorf mentioned three other 
variant-units: o 8s / oc, 8s (v 2), £^ou0xv8ixo/-v£ixcL)/KpiveTco and o 8so<; 
nap / ouap Oeoc; (v 3). Obviously, not all of these variants are merely ortho- 
graphical in nature. Tischendorf is still necessary for a list of variants (be- 
sides, of course, for the evidence supporting them). On the other hand, 
Tischendorf will not always be more exhaustive than NA 26 in the number of 
variants recorded. In 3 John, for example, NA 26 had about a dozen more 
variants than Tischendorf (and, incidentally, about three times as many as 
NA 25 ). 

(c) The definition of category III describing textual affinities (106) seems 
a bit of an overstatement: "Manuscripts of a distinctive character with an 
independent text . . . ," for most of the MSS which the Alands place here 
have a predominantly Byzantine flavor (though not nearly as uniform as the 
MSS which they classify as having "a purely or predominantly Byzantine 
text"). Category III, therefore, tends to give an artificial impression of more 
MSS having an independent text than is really the case. It might be better to 
define this category as "manuscripts which have not been wholly tampered 
with by the Byzantine standard." 

(d) On p. 58 it is claimed that "If a fragment preserves a passage where 
there is any variation in the tradition, it is quite sufficient to signal the textual 
character of the whole manuscript. There is no need to consume a whole jar of 
jelly to identify the quality of its contents — a spoonful or two is quite enough!" 
Perhaps this kind of reasoning is what stands behind the Alands' test-passage 
method, and moves the authors to classify codex Alexandrinus as 'indepen- 


dent' rather than Byzantine in the gospels (107, but see 50!). Further, it is 
demonstrably untrue: if only a leaf or two of P 45 had been discovered — say, of 
March 7:30-36 (where it shares seven readings with the Byzantine text against 
the Alexandrian and none with the Alexandrian against the Byzantine 15 — the 
Alands might be forced to conclude that such a fragment was an early third 
century Byzantine MS! Textual consanguinity can not always therefore be 
determined by simply sampling a 'spoonful or two' of a MS's contents. 1 

(e) Finally, in attempted to show NA 26 's superiority over other texts 
(UBSGNT 3 excepted) — in part by default — the Alands mention that "the 
circulation of editions formerly in competition with Nestle seems to have 
subsided" (218. Then they state that the last edition of Merk's Novum 
Testamentum Graece et Latine was in 1964. This statement was true in 1982, 
when the German edition of the Alands' text was published; but it was not 
true in 1987 (nor in May 1985, when Kurt Aland made his final corrections/ 
revisions of the English edition), for Merk's 10th edition in 1984. 

Finally, some minor errata in the work need to be mentioned: the 
caption for the plate on p. 80 reads "Codex Guelferbytanus (A e . . .)", but it 
should read "Codex Guelferbytanus A (P e . . .)"; "text passages" (95) should 
read "test passages"; "104 s (107, third line from bottom) should read "104 2 ", 
the cross reference for 0189 (122) should be to p. 103 rather than to p. 105; 
"plate 4" (first line, 128) should be "plate 40"; MS 1067 should be labeled 
Category V in Paul, III elsewhere (132); "Bonafactius Fischer" (170) should 
be "Bonifatius Fischer"; plate 23 (p. 90) P 47 should be dated third century, 
not second, and P 75 (plate 24, p. 91) should be dated "early third' 1 '' rather than 
"early second." All in all, with the great mass of details covered in this 
volume, that there are so few errata is commendable to authors and pub- 
lishers alike. 


The Alands' Text of the New Testament should serve the academic and 
ecclesiastical communities well for years to come. Unfortunately, though one 
could justifiably have expected it to supplant Metzger's handbook (since so 
much has happened in the nineteen year gap between the two), because of its 
lack of documentation coupled with its tone, the two should be used together. 
A second edition, with some work, could correct these deficiencies and render 
for itself an unqualified commendation. 

15 Cf. also Luke 12:21-13:2; John 9:16-35; 10:19 38; 11:19 12:9; Rev 9:20 12:13 
for similar 'strings' of Byzantine-papyrus alignments (as well as the list supplied in 
Sturz, 145-59). 

16 Cf. also G. D. Fee's article in NTS 15 (1968) 23-44 in which he demonstrates 
that X has a D-text for John 1:1-8:38 

One could note further the 'patchwork' text of codex W (which has dramatic 
shifts in its textual affinities: In Matthew and Luke 8-24 the text is Byzantine; in Mark 
1-5 it is 'western'; in Mark 6-11 it is Caesarean; and in Luke 1-7 and John 5:21 it is 

Grace TheologicalJournal9.\ (1988) 287-300 


The Use of the Bible in Theology: Evangelical Options, edited by Robert K. 
Johnston. Atlanta: John Knox, 1985. Pp. 257. $11.95. Paper. 

This collection of essays on theological method shows the wide diver- 
gence that exists among evangelicals on the questions of biblical inerrancy, 
biblical authority, hermeneutics and theological method. All of the con- 
tributors would accept the statement that Christianity limits its ground of 
authority to the Bible, but beyond that the articles move in various directions. 
This is both informative and unsettling, stimulating and frustrating. Further- 
more, the title of the book is partially misleading. The articles are primarily 
focused upon the matters of hermeneutics and theological method. Never- 
theless, Robert Johnston of North Park Seminary has done an admirable job 
in bringing together these representative approaches. 

The contributors are well known evangelical theologians and leaders in 
their various evangelical communities, including Donald Bloesch, Donald 
Dayton, William Dyrness, Gabriel Fackre, James Packer, Clark Pinnock, 
Russell Spittler, Robert Webber, David Wells and John Yoder. Johnston's 
provocative introduction provides a road map for reading the rest of the 
essays. It should be noted that most of the article are summaries of books 
previously published by the contributors. 

Especially interesting are the articles by Pinnock, Dayton, Spittler, Wells 
and Fackre. Pinnock's chapter is a commendable evangelical defense of 
biblical authority in doing theology, not on the nuances of inerrancy but 
about the primacy of the biblical text in doing theology. Dayton insightfully 
shows how the modernist-fundamentalist controversy has impacted theo- 
logical method in America as contrasted with evangelical methodologies in 
Britain. Spittler's essay is an autobiographical reflection of his attempt to do 
exegetical theology within the charismatic movement. Fackre and Wells 
seriously discuss the issues involved in theological method. These last two 
essays deserve thoughtful reading by serious evangelical theological students. 
Their goal is similar, but the doing of the task takes different directions for 
each. Wells' treatment is most satisfying in his distinction between exegesis, 
doctrine and theology. Fackre's narrative approach is stimulating, but not as 
satisfying. Unsettling is his flirtation with "second chance" theology for 

Other chapters include Packer's Reformed, canonical approach, Bloesch's 
Christocentric theology, Yoder's Anabaptist renewal methodology, Webber's 
concerns for the early church's rule of faith and the priority of worship in 
theological method, and Dyrness's missionary-contextual theology. 

This collection of essays raises several questions: Is it possible for a 
synthesis to be reached? Is it possible to go beyond the common conviction 
that Scripture is authoritative in theological method? Granted that is the 


distinguishing mark among evangelicals, but is a greater commonality in 
hermeneutics and method possible? It appears that the agenda is set for the 
upcoming decade. Johnston's work is a helpful starting place for all con- 
cerned with this task. 

David S. Dockery 
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary 

/ Chronicles, by Roddy Braun. Word Bible Commentary. Waco: Word, 
1986. Pp. 312. $22.95. Cloth. 

One of the most prominent figures in post-exilic biblical studies is Roddy 
Braun, former Professor of Semitic Languages at Concordia Senior College, 
Fort Wayne, Indiana. Braun's contribution is a welcome addition to OT 
studies. While numerous commentaries on Chronicles are available today, 
outside of Williamson (NCB) and Myers (AB), there is little to help the 
English reader, especially those with pastoral and expository concerns. 

Though Braun's bibliographies are helpful and complete, he omits 
Baruch Halpern, "Sacred History and Ideology: Chronicles' Thematic 
Structure — Indications of an Earlier Source" in The Creation of Sacred 
Literature, edited by R. E. Friedman (Berkeley: University of California 
Press, 1981, pp. 33-56). In light of Braun's emphasis on textual history, this 
is a significant omission. 

Braun does excellent comparative work in the synoptic sections, often 
placing the various texts side by side. He discusses in detail the matter of 
textual history, and is reticent to acknowledge that major parts of the 
material are from the Chronicler's hand (cf. pp. 24, 25, 28, 72, 79, 81, 99, 100, 
etc.). While Braun emphasizes the authority of the canon and the final form 
(per Childs), it is difficult to accept the various proposals of layering and later 
hands. Certainly we would acknowledge scribal activity in the OT text, but 
the consistent propensity to adduce extensive reworking (cf. his comment 
concerning Moses and the Torah, p. 228) is unjustified. 

Braun has correctly approached the book in looking for its uniqueness 
and significance as a post-exilic theological treatise. He identifies the major 
theological theme as the temple, from which all other institutions and per- 
sonages gain their legitimacy. David is elevated and even idealized to some 
degree because of his priority on the temple and its cult. Solomon is the 
"chosen temple builder." Various other themes such as "all Israel" ( I 7^<n'W , Vd), 
the Davidic covenant, retribution, and continuity are all derived from the 
primary motif of the temple. 

There is, however, an unfortunate hesitancy to see a messianic escha- 
tology in Chronicles (p. xxvii), perhaps due to overstatements from scholars 
such as von Rad, Noordtij, Stinespring, Mosis, and others. 

Braun has sought to accommodate most of the suggestions for the date 
of the book, including Freedman's 515 B.C. date, as well as the traditional 
suggestion of 250 B.C. This, of course, is accomplished by the suggestion of 
various layers or hands involved in the composition. Cross's three layered 
approach is received favorably and expanded. Accordingly, Williamson's 
commentary should be used as a counterbalance to Braun's discussion. 


One of Braun's major premises, based on the work of Lemke, is the 
superior value of the Chronicler's own composition in determining theo- 
logical Tendenz over texts for which Vorlagen are available. However, one 
must express caution here. Lemke has failed to consider that choice of text is 
tendentious (cf. Talmon's discussion of OT textual history). Thus each sec- 
tion in the Chronicler's composition must be considered on its own merits 
and integrated into the whole. Further, this premise has led to some im- 
balance in the commentary. For example, the pivotal text of 1 Chronicles 17 
(synoptic to 2 Samuel 7) is given rather cursory attention, in contrast to a 
well-developed exegetical and theological study of 1 Chronicles 22 and 28. 

Finally, in regard to the historicity of the Chronicler's composition, 
Braun properly cautions that the attempt to protect the reputation of the 
writer by tests of historical accuracy is to be considered "misguided" (p. xxiii). 
On the other hand, he asserts that we do not have purely Jewish midrashic 
literature. Rather, he prefers to use the term "narrative" or "story" — "history 
in the pregnant sense of the term (facts plus interpretation)" (p. xxiv). 
Certainly that premise is valid as it stands. However, in his discussion of 
"Speech, Sermon and Prayer in Chronicles" Braun suggests that rather than 
attributing these pericopes to the speaker adduced in the text, "the Chronicler 
himself is completely responsible for the contents . . ." (p. xxv). The speakers 
are cited in order to give "prophetic, royal, and ultimately divine authority to 
institutions and conceptions dear to his own heart" (p. xxv). This seems to go 
beyond the basic premise cited above. There is no reason to reject, as Braun 
does, the Chronicler's selection of historical sources with which he completely 
agreed. This maintains a basic historical integrity to the Chronicler's "story," 
yet allows him to craft his composition in light of his theological and 
polemical concerns. 

Braun's work is a significant contribution to OT studies. Its major 
strength is that it takes seriously the theological and polemical interests of the 
Chronicler. At the same time, some of the critical methodologies and ap- 
proaches used in this book will need to be carefully scrutinized by the more 
conservative scholar. 

David G. Barker 
London Baptist Seminary 

Ezekiel 1-19, by W. H. Brownlee. Word Biblical Commentary. Waco: Word, 
1986. Pp. xlii + 321. $18.95. Cloth. 

Jeremiah, by Elmer A. Martens. Believers Church Bible Commentary. 
Scottsdale, PA: Herald, 1986. Pp. 327. $17.95. Paper. 

Originally designed to be a two volume commentary on Ezekiel covering 
the natural two halves of the prophecy (1-24, 25-48), this portion was cut 
short by Professor Brownlee's untimely death. Because Brownlee was a 
distinguished scholar and recognized authority on studies relative to Ezekiel, 
the publishers opted for the publication of his notes on the first nineteen 
chapters of Ezekiel. The bibliographies and notes were edited for publication 
by Leslie Allen and Gerald Keown, and the Introduction for the commentary 


was supplied by publishing Brownlee's article on Ezekiel in the revised 
edition of the ISBE (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1982) 2: 250-63. 

The result is a book that is understandably disjointed yet one that 
preserves Brownlee's distinctive points of view on Ezekiel. Thus, Ezekiel's 
basic ministry is held to be not among the diaspora of the exile of Babylon (a 
later scribal error or editorial change) but was at Gilgal northwest of Jericho; 
reference to Tel Abib near the Chebar River (e.g., 3:15) has to do with a 
settlement that bordered the WadT en-Nu c eima; the plain mentioned in 
Ezekiel's vision refers to the Plain of Jericho; and the "land of the 
Babylonians" (1:3; 11:24) becomes an interpretive revision from "to Gilgal." 
Therefore, in accordance with the frequent idiom of dispatch "set your face 
toward," Ezekiel visited personally many places in his homeland, as well as 
journeying to some surrounding countries, including several trips to Egypt. 
From Egypt, after the great vision of the restored temple and nation (40-48), 
Ezekiel, as a new Moses and conquering Joshua, led a group of returning 
exiles home to Gilgal (35-36) in the thirtieth year of King Jehoiachin's 
captivity in 568 B.C. (1:1). Also, Brownlee's well-known views of Ezekiel's 
cultic drama and religious festival (cf. pp. 123-24, 180-81), that Ezekiel was a 
mystic and visionary prophet of reform, have been reiterated and up-dated in 
this commentary while interacting carefully with others along the way. 

Ezekiel was both a prophet and priest and, above all, a herald of 
national renewal. The prophecies that bear his name were largely edited by 
Ezekiel himself or a disciple. Although the process of compilation began 
quite early, it continued as late as the time of Alexander when a thorough 
revision took place (pp. xxxv-xl). The present canonical arrangement of the 
material covered by this commentary comprises the following portions: a 
section devoted to Ezekiel's commission as a prophet (1:1-5:17); several 
"oracles of doom for the land of Israel" (6-7); several units devoted to 
Ezekiel's vision of the captives' condition in Jerusalem (8-11); several pro- 
phecies relative to the exile and to true and false prophets and leaders (12- 
14); and a section dealing with such literary figures as parable (15), allegory 
(16, 17, 19), and proverb (18). Each of the major sections has several sub- 
sections whose original setting and process of composition are minutely 
discussed by Brownlee, who often notes a given pericope's indebtedness to 
literary units found in the other great prophets (e.g., Jeremiah, cf. 1:4-28 
with Jer 1:4-10 [pp. 22-24]; "Second Isaiah," cf. 3:22-5:17 with numerous 
portions of Isaiah 40-55 [pp. 51-52]; etc.). 

In contrast to Brownlee's sometimes complex and fractured analysis, 
that of his student, Elmer Martens, is a model of clarity and simplicity. 
Written in a popular style for a lay audience, the commentary on Jeremiah is 
nonetheless the fruit of Martens' own wide-ranging studies in OT theology in 
general and Jeremianic studies in particular, including a thesis prepared 
under Brownlee's direction. 

Martens focuses on Jeremiah's fourfold message: judgment/ deliverance, 
knowing God, covenant, and land, the same four themes that Martens finds 
to be key to the whole Old Testament (as detailed in his book God's Design 
[Grand Rapids: Baker, 1981]). Martens then proceeds with a consideration of 
the individual sections of the prophecy. Each section for discussion in the 


book follows a consistent format: preview, explanatory notes, the text in 
biblical context (i.e., how that section relates to the larger canonical picture), 
and the text in the life of the church (applications of that portion as viewed 
by the church historically and/ or lessons for the believing church of today). 

The principle weakness of the commentary lies in Martens' superimposi- 
tion of his grid of four key themes upon the Jeremianic corpus rather then 
proceeding on the basis of the book's own themes and development. Further, 
his position on the conditional nature of all of the OT covenants (pp. 23-24, 
151, 294-95), and his contention that land "was shorthand for the abundant 
life" (p. 24) are both matters for strong contention and as presented in the 
commentary are questionable. Many will disagree with his suggestion that 
Baruch is the author of the full section 34-45. Further, while Martens' 
overview and outline of Jeremiah are often on target, he overlooks Jeremiah's 
literary device of bookending (cf. p. 298), hinging, and hooking (e.g., chapters 
2-24 and 25-51 are two distinctly bookended sections punctuated with hing- 
ing chapters and hooking devices). Martens' research in Jeremianic studies 
(including compilational theory, cf. pp. 296-98) should have supplied an 
outline that owed as much to structural as notional considerations. 

On the positive side, despite its designed simplicity the commentary does 
often reflect the author's careful preparation. Martens shows the relation of 
Jeremiah's motifs to the other portions of the Scriptures (e.g., pp. 149-50, 
195-98, 207-8). His appended glossary of key biblical terms and themes is a 
concise and accurate gold mine of biblical information. His sections on the 
applicability of the text for the church and its believers give the book both 
a practicality and warmth that are customarily absent in more technical 

In sum, this commentary on Jeremiah is truly "a new tool for basic Bible 
study" that explicates the "message of Scripture and its meaning for today — 
Sunday school teachers, members of Bible study groups, students, pastors, or 
other seekers" (p. 9). It will doubtless have a good reception in the evangelical 
community for whom it was intended. 

Richard Patterson 
Liberty University 

The Archaeology of the Jerusalem Area, by W. Harold Mare. Grand Rapids: 
Baker, 1987. Pp. 323. $19.95. Cloth. 

Excavations in Jerusalem during the past twenty-five years have pro- 
duced much information on the ancient city. Accordingly, Harold Mare, 
president of the Near East Archaeological Society and director of the Abila 
Excavation, has organized this material into a clearly written book on ancient 
Jerusalem that should be useful to many levels of students of archaeology 
and biblical history. The ancient remains of Jerusalem are carefully ex- 
plicated based on archaeology, the Bible, Josephus, and other ancient 
sources, taking into account the size of the city, the time span of its occupa- 
tion, the intricacies of its history and religious traditions, and the difficulty of 
excavating in a modern city. 


The title implies that this book is about more than just the old walled 
city, and indeed, Mare includes the Hinnom and Kidron valleys and the 
Mount of Olives. His scope does not extend, however, to such nearby sites as 
Tell el-Ful on the north or Ramat Rahel on the south side of Jerusalem. 
Though he includes a discussion of the names of the city, he neglects the 
Arabic el-Quds. And though he mentions the city's location on the ridge 
road, he does not explain that by straddling the ridge road, Jerusalem could 
sever communication between north and south, as in the days of the 

In eleven chapters, corresponding to the major historical periods, the 
archaeological features of the city are capably described and interpreted, 
including such difficult matters as the location of the Pool of Siloam, the 
seven meter wall on the western hill, the problem of the three walls, the 
location of Calvary, and the evidence for crucifixion. On many issues, Mare 
does not particularly champion one viewpoint over another but tries to 
present each fairly. Thus, one often finds summaries of the writings of Sailer, 
Kenyon, Mazar, Shiloh, and others. But Mare does a good job of bringing it 
all together. And he does not shrink from discussing topics that have failed to 
attract great popular interest, such as the Dominus Flevit tomb and the 
Byzantine churches. 

In addition to a bibliography and index, the book includes a useful 
glossary containing mostly architectural terms. There is a chronological chart 
and a number of plans of important structures. But for the reader who has 
not visited Jerusalem, there may be some difficulty in getting properly 
oriented to the layout of the city, since the quality of the maps is lacking. The 
black-and-white photographs, however, are good and instructive. Finally, 
Baker Book House is to be thanked for putting a book of this caliber in a 
sewn, cloth binding. 

Robert Ibach, Jr. 
Dallas Theological Seminary 

2 Corinthians, by Ralph P. Martin. Word Biblical Commentary, 40. Waco: 
Word, 1986. Pp. lxiii + 527. $25.95. Cloth. 

The gaps in the critical study of 2 Corinthians are filling quickly. In 
addition to this work by Ralph Martin in the Word Biblical Commentary 
series, the following book length studies in 2 Corinthians have appeared 
recently: Ernest Best's commentary in the Interpretation series; Victor Paul 
Furnish's commentary in the Anchor Bible series; Hans Dieter Betz's com- 
mentary on chaps. 8 and 9 in the Hermeneia series; and Charles Talbert's 
work entitled Reading Corinthians. The nearly contemporaneous appearance 
of these works has presented a drawback: Martin's work appeared too early 
to interact with any of the other commentaries cited above, or with Dieter 
Georgi's translated and slightly expanded work on Paul's opponents in 

Martin's work is clearly the most valuable of the recent studies on 
2 Corinthians. It is a comprehensive, coherent, and even treatment of this 


valuable letter. Refreshingly, this work is at once substantive and well 

The chief strength of this work is its depth. Particularly noteworthy is 
the correlation between the text of 2 Corinthians and the path charted by the 
commentary. The divisions in the discussion are informed by the ebb and 
flow of the text, not by some requirements for chapters of equal length. The 
divisions of the text are noted and explained so that the reader is able to 
place a discussion in its proper context. In the words printed on the dust- 
jacket, "while technical problems are exhaustively treated, Dr. Martin has 
given prime concern to a clear interpretation of the text as it stands." 

According to Martin, "the key element in Paul's relations with this 
community may well be stated as reconciliation" (preface, p. x). This explains 
why the "Explanation sections have tried to bring out the pastoral dimension 
of the letter" (ibid.). Thus 

it will be the aim of the following commentary to elucidate what those broken 
relationships between apostle and congregation were, and how Paul sought in 
persona Christi (as he says, 2:10) to call back these people to the apostolic 
standards of belief and practice as a way of repairing the breach, so restoring 
unity and friendship [preface, p. xi]. 

Martin's dating of 2 Corinthians is traditional (a.d. 56). He sees it as a 
work comprised of two letters: 1-9 and 10-13, composed in that order. 
Internal evidence suggests to him that the section contained in chaps. 10-13 is 
both a separate and a subsequent letter. 

While Martin's views regarding the unity of 2 Corinthians are more 
positive than the critical consensus since Semler's day, it is unfortunate that 
he is forced to see two letters: 1-9 and 10-13. Regarding the difficult ques- 
tions of structural integrity and unity arising from other portions, he writes: 

the unity of 2 Corinthians can be defended against the charges that chaps. 8 and 
9 are not compatible in their present configuration, that 2:14-7:4 is an inter- 
polated paragraph, and likewise that 6:14-7:1 is a non-Pauline or anti-Pauline 
interpolation which is a "foreign body" (Fremdkorper) in its present canonical 
setting. The reasons given in the survey above, which discussed internal evi- 
dence, are buttressed by the internal evidence that no manuscript or patristic 
authority ever divides the epistle [pp. xlv-lxvi]. 

The external evidence has remained the same, and there are decent reasons 
for not separating 10-13 from 1-9. 

The following studies are important additions to Martin's work: John 
Austing, "Introduction and Overview of II Corinthians," Notes on Trans- 
lation 66: 2-19; Stanley Norris Olson, "Confidence Expressions in Paul: 
Epistolary Conventions and the Purpose of 2 Corinthians," Ph.D. diss., Yale, 
1976; R. V. G. Tasker, "The Unity of 2 Corinthians," ExpTim 47: 55-58; and 
Marvin R. Vincent, "The Integrity of Second Corinthians," in Essays in 
Modern Theology and Related Subjects, Scribners, 1911, pp. 185-89. See 
also the many fine studies in 2 Corinthians in A. Vanhoye, ed., L'Apotre 
Paul: Personnalite, Style et Conception du Ministere (BETL, 73), Peeters, 1986. 

David C. Baker 
Winona Lake, IN 


What Are They Saying about Mark?, by Frank J. Matera. New York: 
Paulist, 1987. Pp. ix + 114. $4.95. Paper. 

This little book is one in the series of "What are they saying about . . ." 
books published by Paulist Press. The series as a whole is well conceived; 
Matera's contribution is especially helpful. 

The purpose is to give "a brief survey of what New Testament scholars 
have been saying about the Gospel according to Mark for the past twenty to 
twenty-five years ... an introduction to some important areas of Markan 
scholarship which involved questions both theological and methodological" 
(vii). Matera's focus is on methodology and theology, especially since these 
are issues in the current climate. After discussing the life-setting of the 
historical Jesus, that of the early church, and that of Mark's community, 
Matera focuses on the major theological tensions, Christology and the role of 
the disciples and discipleship. Then he turns to a historical survey of 
methodologies, moving from source to form to redaction to rhetorical to 
literary criticism. His own views are admirably suppressed, being brought in 
(usually) only at the end of each chapter. 

The strengths of this book are: in a very short span, Matera has ably 
given an overview of the central issues. Matera is clear and easy to follow. 
His discussions of Wrede's Messianic Secret, Mark's Christology, the role of 
the disciples, etc., were all illuminating. Matera has carefully synthesized each 
author's position. Though one could wish for a more balanced picture of 
some of the topics, the topics themselves were not on the periphery of 
Markan studies (though they may be on the periphery of Mark — as Ernest 
Best suggested with reference to Christology [Mark: The Gospel as Story 
(Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1983) 79-80]). Matera provides information, 
synthesis, and direction with few critiques. If one wants to find out what they 
are saying about Mark, this is the book to read. 

It is important, however, to note Matera's presuppositions. Markan 
priority and the existence and use of Q by Matthew and Luke are boldly 
assumed. Though holding that Mark was a 'conservative redactor' (i.e., one 
who passed on the tradition about Jesus without altering its essence), Matera 
still would not see all of the gospel narrative going back to the historical 
Jesus. This is evident by his lack of interaction with material which is more 
conservative in nature (e.g., no mention of a date earlier than c. a.d. 66 is 
suggested) as well as by his neglect of Peter as a major source when he 
discusses source criticism (58-62; it should be noted here that Matera begins 
the chapter with Papias' statement about Mark's connection to Peter and 
Rome, then ignores it in the subsequent discussion); more explicitly this is 
seen in Matera's comment about Mark 13: "the author is probably writing 
during the period of the Jewish War (66-70) with an intuition that the city's 
destruction is at hand." Matera has some respect for patristic tradition 
(regarding Peter's relation to Mark and the Roman destination) but is ag- 
nostic about using the present tools to recover the historical Jesus; yet he sees 
value in the use of literary/ rhetorical criticism in the study of Mark. 

The weaknesses of Matera's work are several. In two senses, Matera has 
not been synthetic enough: though he recognizes the lack of consensus among 


Markan scholars, he rarely points out what seem to be the obvious reasons 
for disagreement; and in discussing methodologies, Matera fails to make clear 
that the history of Markan (and gospel) studies is moving from source to 
literary criticism. Though Matera hopes that literary criticism will resurrect 
the quest for the historical Jesus (92, 95), he has not addressed why scholars 
have moved in the direction they have. Further, as Matera admits, his review 
of scholarship is highly selective. There is almost no discussion of Marxsen 
(on redaction); none of Quesnell (on literary criticism); none on a date of 
Mark earlier than 66; nothing but assumption on Markan priority (but cf. the 
recent works by Orchard, Reicke, Farmer). Even the core theological issues 
(viz., Christology, disciples) are treated only on one level. Perhaps the 
greatest weakness, however, in Matera's book is his disregard of the problem 
of presuppositions. 

Overall, this book supplies an excellent entree into current Markan 
studies. For those who are puzzled by scholarship on the second gospel, 
What are they saying about Mark? will provide helpful information. 

Daniel B. Wallace 
Dallas Theological Seminary 

Tragedy in Eden: Original Sin in the Theology of Jonathan Edwards, by 
C. Samuel Storms. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1985. 
Pp. xii + 316. $12.75. Paper. 

This carefully documented work, a revision of a doctoral dissertation at 
the University of Texas-Dallas, is a significant contribution to American 
Christianity. Storms's detailed evaluation of Edwards's position on original 
sin is one of the most valuable treatments of New England theology available. 
The presentation is a balanced assessment of Edwards's position, in the 
context of biblical data as well as wide-ranging sources from Perry Miller to 
B. B. Warfield. 

Storms examines the question of Edwards's dependence upon Lockean 
philosophy. He concludes that Edwards listened to and learned from Locke 
and other Enlightenment thinkers, seeking to be relevant without compro- 
mise. Following the review of this important background question, Storms 
leads the reader through the attack on Edwards's theology by John Taylor. 
Taylor's attacks were based upon a quasi-Arminian theology with univer- 
salist tendencies. Edwards's Treatise on Original Sin was primarily a response 
to Taylor and the Arminian and liberal church leaders of his day. Edwards 
attributes Taylor's theology to a soft position on biblical authority and 
Storms concludes that Edwards's arguments were orthodox and biblical. 
Storms carefully demonstrates that in Edwards we have the spirit of Puritan- 
ism and with Taylor we see the spirit of the Enlightenment. Thus the obvious 

Storms's fourth chapter is one of the better defenses to be found to 
objections raised to the Reformed/ Puritan position on original sin. In this 
section he attempts to handle the three problems of: (1) free will, (2) God and 


evil, and (3) morality of imputation. Whether one agrees with Storms's 
position (Edwards's position?), it is a strong apologetic for Reformed 

Edwards's position failed to handle the problem of original sin because 
of its implications for placing guilt on God. Nevertheless, Edwards's argu- 
ments are tightly reasoned and extremely sophisticated. The major contribu- 
tion that Storms makes is to point the way through the complexity of 
Edwards's position. Storms is careful to note where he differs with Edwards 
while carefully evaluating the differences. Perhaps his criticisms can again 
help with one of the tougher questions of Christian theology. 

Storms has made a significant advancement in the study of Jonathan 
Edwards and New England theology in general. The mind of America's 
greatest theologian, Jonathan Edwards, can now be understood more clearly. 

David S. Dockery 
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary 

Reforming Fundamentalism, by George M. Marsden. Grand Rapids, MI: 
Eerdmans, 1987. $19.95. 

Tragedy, comedy and drama are terms usually associated with fiction 
and the theater. George Marsden, however, has written a history of a twen- 
tieth century educational institution which is as engaging as a good novel or 
entertaining play. 

Selected by the administration of Fuller Theological Seminary to write 
the history of that school, Marsden has the advantage of being an outsider 
with reference to the seminary but an insider with regard to evangelicalism. 
The Professor of Christianity in America at The Divinity School at Duke 
University has chronicled superbly an era of change, challenge and conflict 
within fundamentalism and the development of a new evangelicalism, with 
Fuller Seminary as the center of the focus. That school is an appropriate 
subject for such a history due to its original ties with fundamentalism through 
its founder, Charles E. Fuller, and its status as the leading institution in the 
new evangelical movement for forty years. Stalwarts such as Carl F. H. 
Henry, Harold J. Ockenga, Edward John Carnell, William LaSor, George 
Eldon Ladd and Daniel P. Fuller helped to shape the evangelicalism of the 
mid-twentieth century. 

The drama, according to Marsden, "is found in the struggles of re- 
formers to change a movement and yet still remain loyal to it" (p. 9). The 
reader must decide how well the seminary succeeded. It is evident that Fuller 
Seminary has undergone significant change in its four decades of existence. 
The author's thorough research and careful presentation give the reader 
confidence that the story is as thorough and factual as it is well told. 

Marsden discusses the hurdles encountered in getting the institution 
started — the problems of functioning with an absentee president, the diffi- 
culties of Presbyterian faculty members receiving recognition from the Los 


Angeles presbytery, the developing dissatisfaction with the doctrine of bibli- 
cal inerrancy as defined by fundamentalists. The climax of those problems, 
"Black Saturday" and a rewriting of the doctrinal statement, as well as the 
development of new ones in the "Signs and Wonders" class under the guid- 
ance of John Wimber, are carefully recorded. Though the book has its 
emphasis placed on the first twenty years of Fuller, the last two decades are 
surveyed satisfactorily in an "Epilogue" and a "Sequel." 

Tragedy in the seminary's history can be found in the contention which 
arose between fundamentalists and the new evangelicals of Fuller. The most 
tragic figure is Edward John Carnell. A Harvard graduate who sought to gain 
a hearing and respect in liberal theological circles, Carnell found little 
response from those he hoped to persuade while coming under a barrage of 
criticism initiated by fundamentalists. The road to his psychological collapse 
and untimely death was paved with conflict with those militants who were 
offended at Carnell's compromise. This was the lot of the professor judged to 
be the most popular during his tenure at Fuller. 

A lighter side is also evident in the seminary story. In the tense academic 
setting, one especially busy professor placed a message on his door: "You 
have a busy schedule. So do I. I don't want to make yours any worse. So 
don't come in" (p. 129). Wilbur Smith provides comic relief with his 
"harumphs" and his uninformed prayer of thanksgiving on the very day the 
faculty faced its most serious internal confrontation. 

Studies of the various professors are handled in commendable fashion 
with appropriate charity, empathy and criticism. The abundance of pictures 
throughout the book enhances its excellence. A few corrections need to be 
made in future printings. "Extra-denominational" is misspelled (line 19, p. 
1 19) and Carl Henry's six volume God, Revelation and Authority is identified 
as containing five volumes. 

There is much food for thought in this work. The seminary which had a 
solid financial basis through the ministry of Charles E. Fuller, in its early 
years failed to build a constituency to which it would be held accountable. 
Marsden develops this problem well. The question of theological integrity is a 
critical one and it is hoped that the Fuller Seminary example will be instruc- 
tive to others facing similar problems. The pains experienced in reforming a 
tradition can be many and the cost must be counted and problems antici- 
pated. The conflicts between fundamentalists and evangelicals have hurt the 
testimony of the body of Christ and the Fuller story is filled with such 

Two possible responses lead in unfortunate directions. One can, as a 
result of reading this book, become more entrenched in one's attitude of 
bitterness toward either "unloving" fundamentalists or "compromising" evan- 
gelicals. A more desirable attitude, however, out of concern for the testimony 
of the body, would be to seek creative ways to hold both the goal of unity 
and the perpetuation of doctrinal purity and intellectual honesty. 

Ronald T. Clutter 
Grace Theological Seminary 


Latimer: Apostle to the English, by Carla H. Stuart. Grand Rapids: Zonder- 
van, 1986. Pp. 348. 

Clara Stuart, a professional writer from Mississippi, spent five years in 
research and writing this portrait of one of England's most noteworthy 
Protestant Reformers. "My aim," she wrote, "has been to make him live and 
breathe and become as real as a reader's closest friend in daily life" (p. 7). She 
has written a vivid and engrossing account of Latimer's career, but in her 
desire to make him seem as real as her readers' contemporaries, Miss Stuart 
has had to resort to some imaginative reconstructions. This, consequently, is 
not a scholarly biography but rather what might today be called a docu- 
drama. It is filled with conversations among sixteenth century ecclesiastical 
figures as well as reports pertaining to their mental processes and emotional 
states. In those areas documentary evidence is scant, so the author has taken 
the liberty of filling in the gaps. In most cases the material seems plausible, 
but readers should know that, at those points, they are dealing with drama 
rather than history. 

Hugh Latimer was one of the greatest preachers of the English Reforma- 
tion, and Clara Stuart has given great emphasis to his pulpit ministry. She 
likewise has depicted him correctly as a leader of great compassion for the 
poor and a courageous martyr. The account of how Latimer met his death 
during the reign of Bloody Mary is especially moving to read. 

Perhaps the most significant feature of this book is its accounts of 
ecclesiastical politics in a state church. Readers who keep this in mind should 
come away with an enhanced appreciation for free churches in a free state, as 
in the United States. 

Although scholars will find little of value in Latimer, the general reader 
should enjoy it and find the career of its subject an inspiration. It would be a 
fine addition to public and church libraries. 

James Eward McGoldrick 
Cedarville College 

The Preacher and Preaching: Reviving the Art in the Twentieth Century, ed. 
by Samuel T. Logan, Jr. Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1986. 
Pp. xv + 463. $16.95. Cloth. 

This book is the result of asking thirty pastors and scholars for their 
analyses of the deficiencies in today's Reformed pulpit. The contributors, all 
in the Reformed tradition, reflect the results of the survey and include such 
men as J. I. Packer, R. C. Sproul, James Montgomery Boice, and Edmund 
P. Clowney. 

Although eighteen different authors contribute to the volume, the book 
has a consistent style throughout and is a model of effective editing. The 
references within various chapters to similar materials in other chapters are 
especially helpful to the reader. However, this does not imply that the book is 
easy reading. It is both weighty in content and demanding in style. And the 


use of technical terms that may not be quickly recognized by the average 
pastor may tax a preacher's determination to complete it. 

The introduction to the volume, by J. I. Packer, answers the question, 
Why preach? Packer effectively sets forth six problems with contemporary 
preaching, followed by a lengthy description of what preaching is, both 
negatively and positively. He details why we should continue to preach, from 
an objective perspective of theological reasons to a subjective perspective of 
the inner convictions a preacher must have. Any preacher who doubts the 
validity of preaching will do well to consider Packer's words. 

The discussion of the minister's call presents the conviction that God 
does indeed call a man to the ministry. Unfortunately, the chapter has no 
significant interaction with the biblical word for call nor with the current 
notion that there is no specific call to the ministry. 

A serious deficiency of the first part of the book is that none of the 
chapters deal with the biblical texts of 1 Timothy 3 or Titus 1. Furthermore, 
little attention is given to any significant data in the Pastoral Epistles. This is 
a surprising oversight in that the purpose of part one is to set forth truths 
which relate specifically to "The Man." 

Chapter 6 stresses the use of the OT and NT in preaching but unsuccess- 
fully differentiates between properly seeing Christ in the Old Testament 
(through the use of symbolism and typology) and improperly allegorizing and 

In the chapter on hermeneutics and preaching a stress on Covenant 
theology emerges. Consequently, some difference of approach is detected: "If 
the proper interpretive method is trinitarian in character [which the author 
espouses], the exclusively or even predominately Christocentric interpretation 
must raise serious questions" (p. 227). This stands in possible tension with the 
position in chapter 6 of preaching Christ from all the Bible. 

The discussion of rhetoric in chapter 1 1 was disappointing in that its 
interaction was limited. Although many standard rhetoricians are considered, 
including the Greek Aristotle and Demosthenes, the Roman Cicero and 
Quintilian, and the Christian Augustine and Calvin, there is no attention 
given to modern rhetoricians, such as Kenneth Burke or Richard Weaver, the 
latter being very helpful for the development of a rhetoric of preaching. To 
end a discussion of the preacher as rhetorician with Calvin is to ignore a great 
body of current rhetorical literature that is both helpful and stimulating. 

Several significant elements were missing from the book. First, a con- 
cluding chapter would be most helpful. The volume stops abruptly without a 
conclusion to balance off the excellent introduction. Moreover, no indexes 
are in the book. A scripture index would be a minimum; a subject index 
would be advantageous; and an index of persons and bibliography would add 
even more to the usability of the volume. 

Perhaps the most crucial omission in the volume is the role of the Holy 
Spirit in preaching. Although He is alluded to (e.g., "the all-important 
element of the unction and anointing of the Holy Spirit upon the preaching 
of the Word" [p. 302]), this important subject is never directly addressed. 

In a book of this size a few errors are nearly inevitable. On p. 157 the 
word "of" appears in the long quotation from Jonathan Edwards where it 


should be "or," and on p. 428 the word "compliment" should be "comple- 
ment." Furthermore, a footnote at the beginning of chapter 14 states that 
"All citations (in the chapter) are to the New International Version unless 
otherwise stated," but several of the citations are not from the N.I.V. and 
they are not so noted (e.g., Matt 26:64 and Rom 1:16 on p. 371, Rom 11:33 
on p. 373, Eccl 12:9 on p. 375, etc.). 

Although this book has several shortcomings, it can still be recom- 
mended. The challenge it presents, the high view of the Word which it 
espouses and the honored position it gives to the proclamation of that Word 
make it a worthy volume for the pastor and prospective pastor. 

R. Larry Overstreet 
Grace Theological Seminary 


THE ACADEMY OF HUMANISM. Neo- fundamentalism: The Humanist 
Response. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1988. Pp. 186. $22.95. 

ADAMS, JAMES LUTHER. The Prophethood of All Believers. Boston: 
Beacon, 1986. Pp. 324. $12.95. Paper. 

ADEN, LEROY and J. HAROLD ELLENS, eds. The Church and Pastoral 
Care. Psychology and Christianity series. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1988. 
Pp. 201. n.p. Paper. 

ALBRECHT, MARK C. Reincarnation: A Christian Critique of a New Age 
Doctrine. Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1982. Pp. 136. $5.95. Paper. 

ALLAN, JOHN and GUS EYRE. A Field Guide to Christianity. Chicago: 
Moody, 1987. Pp. 209. $6.95. Paper. 

ALLEN, LESLIE C. Psalms. Word Biblical Themes. Waco: Word, 1987. 
Pp. 139. $8.95. Cloth. 

AMMERMAN, NANCY TATOM. Bible Believers: Fundamentalists in the 
Modern World. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1987. 
Pp. 247. $12.00. Paper. 

AMSTUTZ, MARK R. Christian Ethics & U. S. Foreign Policy. Grand 
Rapids: Zondervan, 1987. Pp. 192. n.p. Paper. 

ASHCRAFT, MORRIS. The Christian Hope. Vol. 15. Layman's Library of 
Christian Doctrine. Nashville: Broadman Press, 1988. Pp. 156. n.p. 

ATKINS, ANNE. Split Image: Male and Female After God's Likeness. 
Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987. Pp. 256. $8.95. Paper. 

BAKKE, RAY, with JIM HART. The Urban Christian: Effective Ministry in 
Today's Urban World. Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1987. Pp. 200. 
$6.95. Paper. 

BALDWIN, CAROL LESSER. Friendship Counseling: Biblical Foundations 
for Helping Others. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1988. Pp. 309. n.p. 

BALDWIN, LOUIS. The Pope and the Mavericks. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus 
Books, 1988. Pp. 217. $19.95. Cloth. 

BARR, JAMES. Comparative Philology and the Text of the Old Testament. 
Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 1987. Second Printing. Pp. 436. $20.00. 


BARRETT, LOIS. The Way God Fights. Peace and Justice Series, Vol. 1. 
Scottdale, PA: Herald, 1987. Pp. 79. n.p. Paper. 

BAUCOM, JOHN Q. Bonding & Breaking Free. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 
1988. Pp. 224. n.p. Paper. 

BAUCOM, JOHN Q. Help Your Children Say No To Drugs. Grand Rapids: 
Zondervan, 1987. Pp. 204. n.p. Paper. 

BAUMANN, J. DANIEL. An Introduction to Contemporary Preaching. 
Paperback Edition. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1988. Pp. 302. n.p. Paper. 

BEALS, PAUL A. A People for His Name: A Church-Based Missions 
Strategy. Reprint, Grand Rapids: Baker, 1988. Pp. 234. n.p. Paper. 

BEASLEY-MURRAY, GEORGE R. John. Word Biblical Commentary, 
Vol. 36. Waco: Word, 1987. Pp. 441. n.p. Cloth. 

BENNER, DAVID G., ed. Christian Counseling and Psychotherapy. Psy- 
chology and Christianity. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1987. Pp. 266. n.p. 

BENNER, DAVID G., ed. Psychology and Religion. Grand Rapids: Baker, 
1988. Pp. 343. n.p. Paper. 

BENNER, DAVID G., ed. Psychotherapy in Christian Perspective. Grand 
Rapids: Baker, 1987. Pp. 375. $14.95 Paper. 

BERKLEY, JAMES D. Making the Most of Mistakes. The Leadership 
Library, Vol. 11. Waco: Word, 1987. Pp. 167. n.p. Cloth. 

BIELER, STACEY and DICK ANDREWS. China at Your Doorstep: Chris- 
tian Friendships with Mainland Chinese. Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 

1987. Pp. 46. $2.95. Paper. 

BLACK, DAVID ALAN. Linguistics for Students of New Testament Greek: 
A Survey of Basic Concepts and Applications. Grand Rapids: Baker, 

1988. Pp. 181. n.p. Paper. 

BLAIR, EDWARD P. The Illustrated Bible Handbook. Reprint, Nashville: 
Abingdon Press, 1987. Pp. 538. n.p. Cloth. 

BLOESCH, DONALD G. Freedom for Obedience: Evangelical Ethics for 
Contemporary Times. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1987. Pp. 342. 
$24.95. Cloth. 

BLOMBERG, CRAIG. The Historical Reliability of the Gospel. Downers 
Grove: InterVarsity, 1987. Pp. 268. $11.95. Paper. 

BLUE, KEN. Authority to Heal. Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1987. Pp. 168. 
$6.95. Paper. 

BOICE, JAMES M., ed. Transforming Our World: A Call to Action. Port- 
land: Multnomah, 1988. Pp. 157. $10.95. Paper. 

BOICE, JAMES MONTGOMERY. Genesis. An Expositional Commentary, 
Volume 3, Genesis 37:1-50:26. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1987. Pp. 366. 
n.p. Cloth. 


BORG, MARCUS J. Jesus A New Vision. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 
1987. Pp. 216. $16.95. Cloth. 

BREESE, DAVE. Living for Eternity: Eight Imperatives from Second Peter. 
Chicago: Moody, 1988. Pp. 143. $6.95. Paper. 

Bible. The Master Reference Collection. Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 

1987. Pp. 394. $12.95. Cloth. 

BROOKS, OSCAR S. The Drama of Decision: Baptism in the New Testa- 
ment. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1987. Pp. 177. n.p. Paper. 

BROWN, COLIN. History & Faith: A Personal Exploration. Grand Rapids: 
Zondervan, 1987. Pp. 129. n.p. Paper. 

BROWN, COLIN. Jesus in European Protestant Thought 1778-1860. Paper- 
back Edition. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1988. Pp. 359. n.p. Paper. 

BROWN, DOUGLAS E. When Past and Present Meet: A Companion to the 
Study of Christian Thought. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1987. Pp. 77. 
n.p. Paper. 

BROWN, HAROLD O. J. Heresies: The Image of Christ in the Mirror of 
Heresy and Orthodoxy from the Apostles to the Present. Paperback 
Edition. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1988. Pp. 486. n.p. Paper. 

BROWN, STEPHEN. When Your Rope Breaks. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 

1988. Pp. 188. n.p. Cloth. 

BRUNER, FREDERICK DALE. The Christbook: A Historical/ Theological 
Commentary: Matthew 1-12. Waco: Word, 1987. Pp. 475. $24.95. Cloth. 

BURGESS, STANLEY M., ed. Reaching Beyond: Chapters in the History of 
Perfectionism. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1986. Pp. 282. n.p. Paper. 

BUSS, GERALD. The Bear's Hug: Christian Belief and the Soviet State, 
1917-1986. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987. n.p. Paper. 

CAMERON, NIGEL M. de S. Biblical Higher Criticism and the Defense of 
Infallibilism in 19th Century Britain. Lewiston/Queenston: The Edwin 
Mellen Press, 1987. Pp. 419. $69.95. Cloth. 

CARLSON, DAVID E. Counseling and Self-Esteem. Resources for Chris- 
tian Counseling, Vol. 13. Waco: Word, 1988. Pp. 268. $12.95. Cloth. 

CARPENTER, JOEL A. and KENNETH W. SHIPPS, eds. Making Higher 
Education Christian: The History and Mission of Evangelical Colleges in 
America. Grand Rapids: Christian College Consortium and Eerdmans, 
1987. Pp. 304. $16.95. Paper. 

CARR, ANNE E. Transforming Grace: Christian Tradition and Women's 
Experience. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1988. Pp. 272. $16.95. Cloth. 

CARSON, D. A. Showing the Spirit: A Theological Exposition of 1 Corin- 
thians 12-14. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1987. Pp. 229. $12.95. Paper. 

CARSON, D. A. When Jesus Comforts the Word: An Exposition of Mat- 
thew 8-10. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1987. Pp. 154. $7.95. Paper. 


CARSON, D. A., ed. Biblical Interpretation and the Church: Text and 
Context. Australia: The Paternoster Press, 1984. Pp. 240. n.p. Paper. 

CARSON, D. A., ed. The Church in the Bible and the World. Grand Rapids: 
Baker, 1987. Pp. 359. n.p. Paper. 

CARTER, LES. The Missing Place. Chicago: Moody, 1987. Pp. 159. $12.95. 

CHILTON, BRUCE. Beginning New Testament Study. Reprint, Grand 
Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987. Pp. 196. $9.95. Paper. 

CHRIST, CAROL P. Laughter of Aphrodite: Reflections On A Journey To 
The Goddess. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1987. Pp. 238. $15.95. 

CLARK, GORDON H. A Christian Philosophy of Education. Revised edi- 
tion, Jefferson, MD: The Trinity Foundation, 1988. Pp. 258. $8.95. 

CLEMENTS, KEITH W. Friedrich Schleiermacher: Pioneer of Modern 
Theology. The Making of Modern Theology, vol. 1. San Francisco: 
Collins, 1987. Pp. 281. $19.95. Cloth. 

COLEMAN, ROBERT E. The Master Plan of Discipleship. The Personal 
Evangelism Library. Old Tappen, NJ: Revell, 1987. Pp. 156. n.p. Paper. 

COLLINS, JOHN J. The Apocalyptic Imagination: An Introduction to the 
Jewish Matrix of Christianity. New York: Crossroad, 1987. Pp. 280. 
$12.95. Paper. 

COLLINS, GARY R. Can You Trust Psychology? Downers Grove: Inter- 
Varsity Press, 1988. Pp. 178. $6.95. Paper. 

Conflict. New York: William Morrow, and Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 
1987. Pp. 399. $15.95. Cloth. 

CONWAY, JIM and SALLY CONWAY. Your Marriage Can Survive Mid- 
Life Crisis. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1987. Pp. 253. $14.95. Cloth. 

COUSINS, NORMAN, ed. The Republic of Reason: The Personal Phi- 
losophies of the Founding Fathers. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1988. 
Pp. 463. $10.95. Paper. 

CRABB, LAWRENCE J., JR. Understanding People: Deep Longings for 
Relationship. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1987. Pp. 224. n.p. Cloth. 

CURTIS, EDWARD M. Song of Songs. Bible Study Commentary. Grand 
Rapids: Zondervan, 1988. Pp. 120. n.p. Paper. 

DAMROSCH, DAVID. The Narrative Covenant: Transformations of Genre 
in the Growth of Biblical Language. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 
1987. Pp. 352. $21.95. Cloth. 

DAVIES, GRAHAM I. Megiddo. Cities of the Biblical World Series. Grand 
Rapids: Eerdmans, 1986. Pp. 116. $8.95. Paper. 


DAVIS, DALE RALPH. No Falling Words: Expositions of the Book of 
Joshua. Expositor's Guide to the Historical Books. Grand Rapids: Baker, 
1988. Pp. 204. n.p. Paper. 

DAYTON, DONALD W. Theological Roots of Penteeostalism. Grand 
Rapids: Zondervan, 1987. Pp. 199. n.p. Paper. 

De GRUCHY, JOHN. Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Witness to Jesus Christ. The Mak- 
ing of Modern Theology, vol. 4. San Francisco: Collins, 1988. Pp. 308. 
$19.95. Cloth. 

DICKASON, C. FRED. Demon Possession & the Christian. Chicago: 
Moody, 1987. Pp. 355. $10.95. Paper. 

DILLARD, RAYMOND B. 2 Chronicles. Word Biblical Commentary, Vol. 
15. Waco: Word, 1987. Pp. 323. $24.95. Cloth. 

DOBSON, JAMES C. Love for a Lifetime: Building a Marriage That Will 
Go the Distance. Portland: Multnomah, 1987. Pp. 125. $13.95. Cloth. 

DRANE, JOHN. Introducing the Old Testament. San Francisco: Harper & 
Row, 1987. Pp. 352. $19.95. Cloth. 

DRINAN, ROBERT F. Cry of the Oppressed: The History & Hope of the 
Human Rights Revolution. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1987. 
Pp. 210. $17.95. Cloth. 

EDWARDS, TILDEN. Living in the Presence: Disciplines for the Spiritual 
Heart. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1987. Pp. 164. $14.95. Cloth. 

ELLER, VERNARD. Christian Anarchy: Jesus' Primacy Over the Powers. 
Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987. Pp. 267. $13.95. Paper. 

FRACKRE, GABRIEL. The Christian Story. Authority: Scripture in the 
Church for the World. A Pastoral Systematics, Volume 2. Grand Rapids: 
N Eerdmans, 1987. Pp. 366. $14.95. Paper. 

FARROW, DOUGLAS. The Word of Truth and Disputes About Words. 
Winona Lake, IN: Carpenter Books, 1987. Pp. 234. $11.95. Paper. 

FEE, GORDON D. The First Epistle to the Corinthians. The New Interna- 
tional Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 
1987. Pp. 880. $27.95. Cloth. 

FEINBERG, JOHN S., ed. Continuity and Discontinuity. Westchester, IL: 
Crossway Books, 1988. Pp. 410. 

FENTON, HORACE L., JR. When Christians Clash: How to Prevent & 
Resolve the Pain of Conflict. Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1987. 
Pp. 158. $6.95. Paper. 

FERGUSON, EVERETT. Backgrounds of Early Christianity. Grand Rapids: 
Eerdmans, 1987. Pp. 515. $24.95. Paper. 



eds. New Dictionary of Theology. The Master Reference Collection. 
Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1988. Pp. 738. $24.95. Cloth. 

DAVID ANTHONY SMITH. People of the Covenant. Third Edition. 
New York/ Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988. Pp. 498. n.p. Cloth. 

FORBES, CHERYL. The Religion of Power. Reprint. Grand Rapids: Zon- 
dervan, 1988. Pp. 144. n.p. Paper. 

FOX, ROBIN LANE. Pagans and Christians. Reprint, San Francisco: Har- 
per & Row, 1988. Pp. 799. $16.95. Paper. 

FRAME, JOHN M. The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God. A Theology of 
Lordship Series. Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1987. Pp. 
437. $24.95. Cloth. 

GAGE, ROBERT C. Cultivating Spiritual Fruit. Schaumburg, IL: Regular 
Baptist Press, 1987. Pp. 140. $5.25. Paper. 

GANGE, DR. ROBERT. Origins and Destiny. Waco: Word, 1986. Pp. 193. 
$12.95. Cloth. 

GAUSTAD, EDWIN S. Faith of Our Fathers: Religion and the New Nation. 
San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1987. Pp. 196. $15.95. Cloth. 

gion. Second Edition. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1988. Pp. 402. n.p. Paper. 

GONZALEZ, MARIANO. Ministry and the Christian Woman. Santo Do- 
mingo, R.D.: Prensa Biblica. Pp. 64. n.p. Paper. 

GOODING, DAVID. According to Luke: A New Exposition of the Third 
Gospel. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987. Pp. 362. $12.95. Paper. 

GREEN, MICHAEL. Baptism: Its Purpose, Practice & Power. Downers 
Grove: InterVarsity, 1987. Pp. 141. $6.95. Paper. 

GREEN, MICHAEL. To Corinth With Love. Waco: Word, 1988. Pp. 189. 
n.p. Paper. 

GREENE, DANA, ed. Evelyn Underhill: Modern Guide to the Ancient 
Quest for the Holy. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 
1988. Pp. 260. $34~50. Cloth. 

GRESHAM, JOHN L., JR. Charles G. Finney's Doctrine of the Baptism of 
the Holy Spirit. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1987. Pp. 106. n.p. Paper. 

GRIFFIN, EM. Making Friends (&. Making Them Count). Downers Grove: 
InterVarsity, 1987. Pp. 223. $7.95. Paper. 

GRIMSRUD, TED. Triumph of the Lamb. Scottdale: Herald, 1987. $9.95. 


GUTHRIE, DONALD. Exploring God's Will: A Guide to John's Gospel. 
Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1986. Pp. 231. $7.95. Paper. 

HANSON, PAUL D. Old Testament Apocalyptic. Interpreting Biblical Texts 
Series. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1987. Pp. 144. n.p. Paper. 

HANSON, PAUL D. The People Called: The Growth of Community in the 
Bible. Reprint, San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1987. Pp. 564. $18.95. 

HARMON, NOLAN B. Ministerial Ethics and Etiquette. Revised Edition. 
Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1987. Pp. 187. n.p. Paper. 

HARRELL, DAVID EDWIN, JR. Pat Robertson: A Personal, Political and 
Religious Portrait. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1987. Pp. 246. $15.95. 

Man Jesus. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1988. Pp. 215. n.p. Paper. 

HARRISON, R. K., ed. Encyclopedia of Biblical and Christian Ethics. 
Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1987. Pp. 472. $24.95. Cloth. 

HARTOG, JOHN II. Enduring to the End: Jehovah's Witnesses and Bible 
Doctrine. Schaumburg, IL: Regular Baptist Press, 1987. Pp. 168. $5.95. 

HAWTHORNE, GERALD F. Philippians. Word Biblical Themes. Waco: 
Word, 1987. Pp. 118. $8.95. Cloth. 

HAYES, JOHN H. and STUART A. IRVINE. Isaiah the Eighth- Century 
Prophet: His Times and His Preaching. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1987. 
Pp. 416. n.p. Paper. 

HAYTER, MARY. The New Even in Christ: The Use and Abuse of the Bible 
in the Debate About Women in the Church. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 
1987. Pp. 190. $8.95. Paper. 

HEATER, HOMER, JR. Zechariah. Bible Study Commentary. Grand 
Rapids: Zondervan, 1987. Pp. 122. n.p. Paper. 

Hammadi, Gnosticism, and Early Christianity. Peabody: Hendrickson, 
1986. Pp. 332. $14.95. Paper. 

HENRICHSEN, WALTER A. After the Sacrifice: A Practical Study of 
Hebrews. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1979. Pp. 187. n.p. Paper. 

HENRY, CARL F. H. Conversations with Carl Henry: Christianity for 
Today. Symposium Series, Vol. 18. Lewiston, NY: The Edwin Mellen 
Press, 1986. Pp. 191. $39.95. Cloth. 

HESSELGRAVE, DAVID J. Today's Choices for Tomorrow's Mission. 
Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1988. Pp. 272. n.p. Paper. 


HIAN, CHUA WEE. The Making of a Leader: A Guidebook for Present & 
Future Leaders. Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1987. Pp. 192. $6.95. 

HIEBERT, PAUL G. and FRANCIS F. HIEBERT. Case Studies in Mis- 
sions. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1987. Pp. 264. $11.95. Paper. 

HOCKING, DAVID. The Coming World Leader: Understanding the Book 
of Revelation. Portland: Multnomah, 1988. Pp. 319. $12.95. Paper. 

HOCKING, DAVID. What the Bible Says About Israel and Its Land. 
Portland: Multnomah, 1987. Pp. 20. $1.95. Booklet. 

The Universe, Society, and Ethics. Building a Christian World View, 
vol. 2. Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1988. Pp. 478. $17.95. 

HOFFMANN, R. JOSEPH and GERALD A. LARUE, eds. Biblical v. 
Secular Ethics: The Conflict. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1988. 
Pp. 191. $22.95. Cloth. 

HOLMGREN, FREDERICK CARLSON. Israel Alive Again: A Commen- 
tary on the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah. The International Theological 
Commentary. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987. Pp. 162. $9.95. Paper. 

HOUSE, H. WAYNE, ed. Restoring the Constitution 1787-1987. Dallas: 
Probe Books, 1987. Pp. 350. n.p. Paper. 

HOWARD, J. GRANT. Creativity in Preaching. The Craft of Preaching 
Series. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1987. Pp. 112. n.p. Paper. 

HUNDLEY, RAYMOND C. Radical Liberation Theology: An Evangelical 
Response. Wilmore, KY: Bristol Books, 1987. Pp. 141. n.p. Cloth. 

HUNTER, JAMES DAVISON. Evangelicalism: The Coming Generation. 
Chicago: Univ. of Chicago, 1987. Pp. 302. $19.95. Cloth. 

HUTTENLOCKER, KEITH. Conflict and Caring. Grand Rapids: Zonder- 
van, 1988. Pp. 139. n.p. Paper. 

IMBODEN, ROBERTA. From the Cross to the Kingdom: Sartrean Dia- 
lectics and Liberation Theology. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1987. 
Pp. 134. $17.95. Cloth. 

men: Prophetic Voice in the Church. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 
1988. Pp. 123. $8.95. Paper. 

JAMES, ROBISON B., ed. The Unfettered Word: Southern Baptists Con- 
front the Authority- Inerrancy Question. Waco: Word, 1987. Pp. 190. 
$8.95. Paper. 

JOHNSON, ARTHUR L. Faith Misguided: Exposing the Dangers of Mysti- 
cism. Chicago: Moody, 1988. Pp. 156. $6.95. Paper. 


JOHNSON, ROGER. Rudolf Bultmann: Interpreting Faith for the Modern 
Era. The Making of Modern Theology, vol. 2. San Francisco: Collins, 
1987. Pp. 346. $19.95. Cloth. 

KAISER, WALTER C, JR. Toward Old Testament Ethics. Grand Rapids: 
Zondervan, 1983. Pp. 345. n.p. Cloth. 

KANTZER, KENNETH S., ed. Applying the Scriptures: Papers from ICBI 
Summit III. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1987. Pp. 514. n.p. Paper. 

KESLER, JAY. Being Holy, Being Human: Dealing with the Expectations of 
Ministry. The Leadership Library, vol. 13. Waco: Word, 1988. Pp. 182. 
n.p. Cloth. 

KETTERMAN, GRACE. Depression Hits Every Family. Nashville: Oliver 
Nelson Books, 1988. Pp. 190. $12.95. Cloth. 

KIDNER, DEREK. The Message of Jeremiah. The Bible Speaks Today 
Series. Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1987. Pp. 176. $8.95. Paper. 

KING, PHILIP J. Amos, Hosea, Micah — An Archaeological Commentary. 
Philadelphia: Westminster, 1988. Pp. 176. $13.95. Paper. 

KISTEMAKER, SIMON J. New Testament Commentary: Exposition of the 
Epistles of Peter and of the Epistle ofJude. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1987. 
Pp. 443. n.p. Cloth. 

KRAUS, C. NORMAN. Jesus Christ Our Lord: Christology from a Disci- 
ple's Perspective. Scottdale, PA: Herald, 1987. Pp. 263. $19.95. Paper. 

KURTZ, PAUL. Forbidden Fruit: The Ethics of Humanism. Buffalo, NY: 
Prometheus Books, 1988. Pp. 266. $19.95. Cloth. 

LAMSA, GEORGE M. New Testament Light. San Francisco: Harper & 
Row, 1988. Pp. 377. $12.95. Paper. 

LANEY, J. CARL. Baker's Concise Bible Atlas. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1988. 
Pp. 277. n.p. Paper. 

LANGBERG, DIANE. Counsel for Pastors' Wives. Grand Rapids: Zonder- 
van, 1988. Pp. 117. n.p. Paper. 

LESTER, ROBERT C. Buddhism. Religious Traditions of the World Series. 
San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1987. Pp. 160. $7.95. Paper. 

LEVENSON, JON D. Creation and the Persistence of Evil: The Jewish 
Drama of Divine Omnipotence. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1988. 
Pp. 182. $18.95. Cloth. 

LEVENSON, JON D. Sinai and Zion: An Entry Into the Jewish Bible. San 
Francisco: Harper & Row, 1987. Pp. 227. $8.95. Paper. 

LEWY, GUENTER. Peace and Revolution: The Moral Crisis of American 
Pacifism. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988. Pp. 283. $19.95. Cloth. 


LINDSELL, HAROLD. The New Paganism: Understanding American Cul- 
ture and the Role of the Church. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1987. 
Pp. 279. $16.95. Cloth. 

LIVINGSTONE, DAVID N. Darwin's Forgotten Defenders: The Encounter 
Between Evangelical Theology and Evolutionary Thought. Grand 
Rapids: Eerdmans, and Edinburgh, Scotland: Scottish Academic Press, 
1987. Pp. 210. $10.95. Paper. 

LOISY, ALFRED FIRMIN. The Gospel and the Church. Classics of Biblical 
Criticism Series. Buffalo, New York: Prometheus Books, 1988. Pp. 268. 
$20.95. Cloth. 

LONGMAN, TREMPER III. Literary Approaches to Biblical Interpreta- 
tions. Foundations of Contemporary Interpretation, Vol. 3. Grand 
Rapids: Zondervan, 1987. Pp. 164. n.p. Paper. 

LOUW, JOHANNES P. and EUGENE A. NIDA, eds. Greek-English Lexi- 
con of the New Testament Based on Semantic Domains, Vol. 1. New 
York, NY: United Bible Societies, 1988. Pp. 843. n.p. Cloth. 

LOUW, JOHANNES P. and EUGENE A. NIDA, eds. Greek-English Lexi- 
con of the New Testament Based on Semantic Domains, Vol. 2. New 
York, NY: United Bible Societies, 1988. Pp. 375. n.p. Cloth. 

LUTZER, ERWIN W. Pastor to Pastor: Tackling Problems of the Pulpit. 
Chicago: Moody, 1987. Pp. 140. $5.95. Paper. 

LYON, DAVID. The Steeple's Shadow: On the Myths and Realities of 
Secularization. Revised edition, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987. Pp. 165. 
$9.95. Paper. 

MacARTHUR, JOHN, JR. Galatians. The MacArthur New Testament 
Commentary. Chicago: Moody, 1987. Pp. 221. n.p. Cloth. 

MacARTHUR, JOHN, JR. The Way to Heaven. John MacArthur's Bible 
Studies. Reprint, Chicago: Moody, 1988. Pp. 119. n.p. Paper. 

MACHEN, J. GRESHAM. Education, Christianity, and the State. Jefferson, 
MD: The Trinity Foundation, 1987. Pp. 179. $7.95. Paper. 

MADANY, BASSAM M. The Bible and Islam: Sharing God's Word with a 
Muslim. Revised, Palos Heights, IL: The Back to God Hour, 1987. 
Pp. 1 15. n.p. Paper. 

MADDOX, ROBERT L. Separation of Church and State: Guarantor of 
Religious Freedom. New York: Crossroad, 1987. Pp. 196. $17.95. Cloth. 

MAGDALEN, MARGARET. Jesus, Man of Prayer. The Jesus Library 
Series. Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1987. Pp. 239. $8.95. Paper. 

MAINS, DAVID R. The Sense of His Presence: Experiencing Spiritual 
Regenesis. Waco: Word, 1988. Pp. 192. $8.95. Paper. 


MAINS, KAREN BURTON. You Are What You Say: Cure for the Trouble- 
some Tongue. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1988. Pp. 219. n.p. Paper. 

MALCOLM, KARI TORJESEN. Building Your Family to Last. Downers 
Grove: InterVarsity, 1987. Pp. 144. $6.95. Paper. 

MANSFIELD, M. ROBERT. "Spirit and Gospel" in Mark. Peabody: Hen- 
drickson, 1987. Pp. 191. n.p. Paper. 

MARSDEN, GEORGE M. Reforming Fundamentalism: Fuller Seminary 
and the New Evangelicalism. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987. Pp. 319. 
$19.95. Cloth. 

MASTERS, PETER. The Healing Epidemic. London: The Wakeman Trust, 
1988. Pp. 227. n.p. Paper. 

MATHENY, JAMES F. Is There a Russian Connection?: An Exposition of 
Ezekiel 37-39. Enid, OK: Jay & Associates, 1987. Pp. 77. n.p. Paper. 

MAY, GERALD G. Will and Spirit: A Contemplative Psychology. San 
Francisco: Harper & Row, 1982. Pp. 360. $15.95. Paper. 

MAYERS, MARVIN K. Christianity Confronts Culture: A Strategy For 
Crosscultural Evangelism. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1987. Pp. 418. n.p. 

MAYO, MARY ANN. A Christian Guide to Sexual Counseling: Recovering 
the Mystery and Reality of "One Flesh. " Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 
1987. Pp. 261. n.p. Cloth. 

McGRATH, ALISTER E. Understanding Jesus: Who Jesus Christ Is And 
Why He Matters. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1987. Pp. 184. n.p. Cloth. 

McKNIGHT, SCOT. Interpreting the Synoptic Gospels. Guides to New 
Testament Exegesis Series, Vol. 2. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1988. Pp. 141. 
n.p. Paper. 

MEADE, DAVID G. Pseudonymity and Canon: An Investigation into the 
Relationship of Authorship and Authority in Jewish and Earliest Chris- 
tian Tradition. Reprint, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987. Pp. 257. $35.00. 

MERRILL, EUGENE H. Kingdom of Priests: A History of Old Testament 
Israel. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1987. Pp. 546. n.p. Cloth. 

METZGER, BRUCE M. The Canon of the New Testament: Its Origin, 
Development, and Significance. New York: Oxford University Press, 
1987. Pp. 326. $55.00 Cloth. 

MEYER, KENNETH M. Minister's Guide to Financial Planning. Grand 
Rapids: Zondervan, 1987. Pp. 156. n.p. Paper. 

MICHEL, WALTER L. Job In the Light of Northwest Semitic. Vol. 1. 
Biblica et Orientalia 42. Rome: Biblical Institute Press, 1987. Pp. 436. 
n.p. Paper. 


MILLER, J. KEITH. Sin: Overcoming the Ultimate Deadly Addiction. San 
Francisco: Harper & Row, 1987. Pp. 260. $14.95. Cloth. 

MILLS, WATSON E. New Testament Series: An Introductory Grammar. 
Lewiston, NY: The Edwin Mellen Press, 1985. Pp. 191. $39.95. Cloth. 

MONTOYA, ALEX D. Hispanic Ministry in North America. Ministry Re- 
sources Library. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1987. Pp. 155. n.p. Paper. 

MORELAND, J. P. Scaling the Secular City: A Defense of Christianity. 
Grand Rapids: Baker, 1987. Pp. 267. $12.95. Paper. 

MORRIS, LEON. The Cross of Jesus. Grand Rapids/ Exeter: Eerdmans/ 
Paternoster, 1988. Pp. 118. $7.95. Paper. 

MORRIS, LEON. The Epistle to the Romans. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 
1988. Pp. 578. $27.95. Cloth. 

MULLER, RICHARD A. Christ and the Decree. Grand Rapids: Baker, 
1988. Pp. 240. n.p. Paper. 

MULLER, RICHARD A. Prolegomena to Theology. Post-Reformation Re- 
formed Dogmatics, Vol. 1. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1987. Pp. 365. $12.95. 

MUMAW, JOHN R. Preach the Word: Expository Preaching From the 
Book ofEphesians. Scottdale, PA: Herald, 1987. Pp. 286. n.p. Paper. 

MYERS, ALLEN C, ed. The Eerdmans Bible Dictionary. Grand Rapids: 
Eerdmans, 1987. Pp. 1094. $29.95. Cloth. 

MYERS, DAVID G. and MALCOLM A. JEEVES. Psychology: Through 
the Eyes of Faith. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1987. Pp. 224. $9.95. 

NARRAMORE, BRUCE. Parenting With Love & Limits. Grand Rapids: 
Zondervan, 1987. Pp. 256. n.p. Paper. 

NASH, RONALD H., ed. Evangelical Renewal in the Mainline Churches. 
Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 1987. Pp. 174. $7.95. Paper. 

NEEDHAM, DAVID C. Close To His Majesty. Portland: Multnomah, 1987. 
Pp. 154. n.p. Cloth. 

NEFF, LaVONNE. One of a Kind: Making the Most of Your Child's 
Uniqueness. Portland: Multnomah, 1988. Pp. 197. $7.95. Paper. 

NEUSNER, JACOB. Christian Faith and the Bible of Judaism: The Judaic 
Encounter with Scripture. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987. Pp. 205. 
$12.95. Paper. 

NEUSNER, JACOB, ed. Scriptures of the Oral Torah. San Francisco: Har- 
per & Row, 1987. Pp. 396. $21.95. Cloth. 


NIDITCH, SUSAN. Underdogs and Tricksters: A Prelude to Biblical Folk- 
lore. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1987. Pp. 186. $18.95. Cloth. 

NOLL, MARK A. One Nation Under God? San Francisco: Harper & Row, 
1988. Pp. 211. $14.95. Cloth. 

NOUWEN, HENRI J. M. Gracias: A Latin American Journal. San Fran- 
cisco: Harper & Row, 1987. Pp. 188. $7.95. Paper. 

ODEN, THOMAS C. Doctrinal Standards in the Wesleyan Tradition. Grand 
Rapids: Zondervan, 1988. Pp. 233. n.p. Cloth. 

Hope — A Call to Obedience: A Commentary on the Books of Joel and 
Malachi. The International Theological Commentary. Grand Rapids: 
Eerdmans, 1987. Pp. 120. $7.95. Paper. 

O'HARE, PATRICK F. The Facts About Luther. Revised edition, Rock- 
ford, IL: Tan Books and Publishers, Inc., 1987. Pp. 378. n.p. Paper. 

PAZMINO, ROBERT W. Foundational Issues in Christian Education: An 
Introduction in Evangelical Perspective. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1988. 
Pp. 232. n.p. Paper. 

PELIKAN, JAROSLAV. The Excellent Empire: The Fall of Rome and the 
Triumph of the Church. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1987. Pp. 133. 
$18.95. Cloth. 

PERKINS, RICHARD. Looking Both Ways: Exploring the Interface Be- 
tween Christianity and Sociology. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1987. Pp. 189. 
$8.95. Paper. 

PERRY, CHARLES AUSTIN. The Resurrection Promise: An Interpreta- 
tion of the Easter Narratives. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1986. Pp. 139. 
$8.95. Paper. 

PETERSON, EUGENE, CALVIN MILLER and Others. Weddings, Funerals 
and Special Events. The Leadership Library, Vol. 10. Waco: Word, 
1987. Pp. 176. n.p. Cloth. 

PETERSON, EUGENE H. Working the Angles: The Shape of Pastoral 
Integrity. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987. Pp. 137. $7.95. Paper. 

PICKERING, ERNEST. For the Hurting Pastor . . . And Those Who Hurt 
Him. Schaumburg, IL: Regular Baptist Press, 1987. Pp. 47. $2.95. Paper. 

PIERARD, RICHARD V. and ROBERT D. LINDER. Civil Religion & the 
Presidency. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1988. Pp. 359. n.p. Paper. 

PIKE, THOMAS and WILLIAM PROCTOR. Is It Success? or Is It Addic- 
tion? Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1988. Pp. 222. n.p. Cloth. 

PIXLEY, GEORGE V. On Exodus: A Liberation Perspective. Maryknoll, 
NY: Orbis, 1987. Pp. 236. n.p. Paper. 


POMERVILLE, PAUL A. The Third Force in Missions. Peabody: Hen- 
drickson, 1985. Pp. 208. n.p. Paper. 

PORTLOCK, ROB. Off the Church Wall. Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 
1987. $4.95. Paper. 

POYTHRESS, VERN S. Symphonic Theology: The Validity of Multiple 
Perspectives in Theology. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1987. Pp. 128. n.p. 

POYTHRESS, VERN S. Understanding Dispensationalists. Grand Rapids: 
Zondervan, 1987. Pp. 137. n.p. Paper. 

PRIOR, DAVID. Jesus and Power. The Jesus Library. Downers Grove: 
InterVarsity, 1987. Pp. 192. $8.95. Paper. 

PUNT, NEAL. What's Good About the Good News? Chicago: Northland 
Books, 1988. Pp. 142. $7.95. Paper. 

QUINNETT, PAUL G. Suicide: The Forever Decision. New York: Con- 
tinuum, 1987. Pp. 151. $16.95. Cloth. 

RADMACHER, EARL et. al. Celebrating the Word. Portland: Multnomah, 
1987. Pp. 160. $8.95. Paper. 

RAHNER, KARL and PINCHAS LAPIDE. Encountering Jesus— Encoun- 
tering Judaism. New York: Crossroad, 1987. Pp. 111. $7.95. Paper. 

RAUSCH, DAVID A. Building Bridges. Chicago: Moody, 1988. Pp. 251. 
n.p. Paper. 


Medicine: A Christian Perspective on Holistic Health. Downers Grove: 
InterVarsity, 1987. Pp. 204. $7.95. Paper. 

REKERS, GEORGE A. Counseling Familites. Resources for Christian Coun- 
seling, Vol. 14. Waco: Word, 1988. Pp. 211. n.p. Cloth. 

RICH, GEORGE. God Pursues a Priest. Schaumburg, IL: Regular Baptist 
Press, 1986. Pp. 60. $2.95. Paper. 

RICHARDS, LARRY. The Dictionary of Basic Bible Truths. Grand Rapids: 
Zondervan, 1987. Pp. 384. n.p. Paper. 

RICHARDS, LAWRENCE O. A Practical Theology of Spirituality. Grand 
Rapids: Zondervan, 1987. Pp. 253. n.p. Cloth. 

RICHARDS, LAWRENCE O. Richards' Complete Bible Handbook. Re- 
print, Waco: Word, 1987. Pp. 864. n.p. Paper. 

RIDDERBOS, H. N. Matthew. The Bible Student's Commentary. Grand 
Rapids: Zondervan, 1987. Pp. 556. n.p. Cloth. 

ROBBINS, JOHN W. Pat Robertson: A Warning to America. Jefferson, 
MD: The Trinity Foundation, 1988. Pp. 164. $6.95. Paper. 


ROBINSON, THOMAS A. Greek Verb Endings. Lewiston, NY: The Edwin 
Mellen Press, 1986. Pp. 80. $29.95. Cloth. 

ROOP, EUGENE F. Genesis. Believers Church Bible Commentary. Scott- 
dale, PA: Herald, 1987. Pp. 348. n.p. Paper. 

ROOP, HARRY L. Are the Mormon Scriptures Reliable? Downers Grove: 
InterVarsity, 1987. Pp. 139. $6.95. Paper. 

ROSS, ALLEN P. Creation and Blessing: A Guide to the Study and Exposi- 
tion of Genesis. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1988. Pp. 744. n.p. Cloth. 

RUDIN, A. JAMES and MARVIN R. WILSON, eds. A Time to Speak: The 
Evangelical Jewish Encounter. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987. Pp. 202. 
$11.95. Paper. 

RUSSELL, J. STUART. The Parousia: A Study of the New Testament 
Doctrine of Our Lord's Second Coming. Reprint, Grand Rapids: Baker, 
1983. Pp. 561. $12.95. Paper. 

RYKEN, LELAND. Words of Delight: A Literary Introduction to the Bible. 
Grand Rapids: Baker, 1987. Pp. 382. $15.95. Paper. 

RYKEN, LELAND. Words of Life: A Literary Introduction to the New 
Testament. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1987. Pp. 182. n.p. Paper. 

RYKEN, LELAND. Work & Leisure in Christian Perspective. Portland: 
Multnomah, 1987. Pp. 255. $10.95. Paper. 

SAYERS, DOROTHY. The Mind of the Maker. San Francisco: Harper & 
Row, 1987. Third Printing. Pp. 229. $7.95. Paper. 

SCHABERG, JANE. The Illegitimacy of Jesus: A Feminist Theological 
Interpretation of the Infancy Narrative. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 
1987. Pp. 255. $21.95. Cloth. 

SEGERBERG, OSBORN JR. The Riddles of Jesus and Answers to Science: 
Modern Verification of His Wisdom and How It Can Help You. Kinder- 
hook, NY: Reges, 1987. $21.95. Cloth. 

SELVIDGE, MARLA J. Daughters of Jerusalem. Scottdale, PA: Herald, 
1987. Pp. 172. $9.95. Paper. 

SEOW, C. L. A Grammar for Biblical Hebrew. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 
1987. Pp. 308. n.p. Cloth. 

SERNAU, SCOTT. Please Don't Squeeze the Christian Into the World's 
Mold. Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1987. Pp. 141. $5.95. Paper. 

SHAW, JEAN. The Better Half of Life: Meditations from Ecclesiastes. 
Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1983. Pp. 183. n.p. Paper. 

SHEPHERD, NAOMI. The Zealous Intruders. San Francisco: Harper & 
Row, 1987. Pp. 282. $19.95. Cloth. 


SHUSTER, MARGUERITE. Power, Pathology, Paradox: The Dynamics of 
Evil and Good. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1987. Pp. 276. n.p. Cloth. 

SIDER, RONALD J. Completely Pro-Life: Building a Consistent Stance. 
Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1987. Pp. 239. $7.95. Paper. 

SILVA, MOISES, series ed. Has the Church Misread the Bible? Foundations 
of Contemporary Interpretation Series, Vol. 1. Grand Rapids: Zonder- 
van, 1987. Pp. 136. n.p. Paper. 

SLAIKEU, KARL A. and STEVE LAWHEAD. Up From the Ashes: How 
to Survive and Grow Through Personal Crisis. Reprint, Grand Rapids: 
Zondervan, 1987. Pp. 236. n.p. Paper. 

SMALLEY, GARY with STEVE SCOTT. // Only He Knew. Revised edi- 
tion, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1988. Pp. 174. n.p. Paper. 

SMEDES, LEWIS B. Caring & Commitment: Learning to Live the Love We 
Promise. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1988. Pp. 153. $14.95. Cloth. 

SOOKHDEO, PATRICK, ed. New Frontiers in Mission. Grand Rapids: 
Baker, 1987. Pp. 190. n.p. Paper. 

SPRING, BETH and ED LARSON. Euthanasia: Spiritual, Medical, and 
Legal Issues in Terminal Health Care. Portland: Multnomah, 1988. Pp. 
219. n.p. Paper. 

STACKHOUSE, MAX L. Apologia: Contextualization, Globalization, and 
Mission in Theological Education. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988. 
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STACKHOUSE, MAX L. Public Theology and Political Economy: Chris- 
tian Stewardship in Modern Society. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987. 
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STEIN, ROBERT H. The Synoptic Problem: An Introduction. Grand 
Rapids: Baker, 1987. Pp. 292. n.p. Cloth. 

STORMS, C. SAMUEL. Reaching God's Ear. Wheaton: Tyndale, 1988. 
Pp. 282. $8.95. Paper. 

SZELES, MARIA ESZENYEI. Wrath and Mercy: A Commentary on the 
Books of Habakkuk and Zephaniah. The International Theological Com- 
mentary. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987. Pp. 118. $7.95. Paper. 

TAYLOR, MARK KLINE. Paul Tillich: Theologian of the Boundaries. The 
Making of Modern Theology, vol. 3. San Francisco: Collins, 1987. Pp. 
351. $19.95. Cloth. 

TERRY, MILTON S. Biblical Apocalyptics: A Study of the Most Notable 
Revelations of God and of Christ. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1988. Pp. 512. 
n.p. Paper. 


of the Gospels. New International Version. San Francisco: Harper & 
Row, 1988. Pp. 341. $17.95. Cloth. 

TIMMER, JOHN. God of Weakness: How God Works Through the Weak 
Things of the World. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1988. Pp. 127. n.p. 

Reading and Writing as a Christian. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1987. Pp. 445. 
$14.95. Paper. 

TUCKER, RUTH A. and WALTER LIEFELD. Daughters of the Church: 
Women and Ministry from New Testament Times to the Present. Grand 
Rapids: Zondervan, 1987. Pp. 552. n.p. Paper. 


Counseling for Substance Abuse and Addiction. Resources for Christian 
Counseling, Vol. 12. Waco: Word, 1987. Pp. 217. n.p. Paper. 

VANDER GOOT, MARY. Healthy Emotions: Helping Children Grow. 
Grand Rapids: Baker, 1987. Pp. 148. $8.95. Paper. 

VAN PELT, RICH. Intensive Care: Helping Teenagers in Crisis. Grand 
Rapids: Zondervan, 1988. Pp. 278. n.p. Cloth. 

VARNER, WILLIAM. Jacob's Dozen: A Prophetic Look at the Tribes of 
Israel. Bellmawr, NJ: The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, Inc., 1987. 
Pp. 108. n.p. Paper. 

WAITLEY, DENNIS. Being the Best. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1987. 
$14.95. Cloth. 

WALKER, ALAN. Evangelistic Preaching. Reprint, Grand Rapids: Zonder- 
van, 1988. Pp. 110. n.p. Paper. 

WALSH, WILLIAM THOMAS. Characters of the Inquisition. Reprint, 
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WALSH, WILLIAM THOMAS. Philip II. Rockford, IL: Tan Books and 
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WALTERS, RICHARD P. Counseling for Problems of Self Control. Re- 
sources for Christian Counseling, Vol. 11. Waco: Word, 1987. Pp. 214. 
n.p. Cloth. 

WELLS, DAVID F. God the Evangelist: How the Holy Spirit Works to 
Bring Men and Women to Faith. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987. Pp. 
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WELTER, PAUL R. Counseling and the Search for Meaning. Resources for 
Christian Counseling, Vol. 9. Waco: Word, 1987. Pp. 269. n.p. Cloth. 


WENDLAND, ERNST R. The Cultural Factor in Bible Translations. UBS 
Monograph Series, No. 2. New York: United Bible Societies, 1987. 
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WENHAM, GORDON J. Genesis 1-15. Word Biblical Commentary, Vol. 1. 
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WESTERMANN, CLAUS. Genesis: A Practical Commentary. Text and 
Interpretation. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987. Pp. 338. $16.95. Paper. 

WESTERMEYER, PAUL. The Church Musician. San Francisco: Harper & 
Row, 1988. Pp. 128. $14.95. Cloth. 

WHEAT, ED. Love Life for Every Married Couple. Reprint, Grand Rapids: 
Zondervan, 1987. Pp. 251. n.p. Cloth. 

WIERSBE, WARREN W. The Integrity Crisis. Nashville: Oliver Nelson 
Books, 1988. Pp. 142. $9.95. Cloth. 

WILCOCK, MICHAEL. The Message of Chronicles: One Church, One 
Faith, One Lord. The Bible Speaks Today Series. Downers Grove: Inter- 
Varsity, 1987. Pp. 288. $8.95. Paper. 

WILKES, PETER. Overcoming Anger & Other Dragons of the Soul: Shak- 
ing Loose from Persistent Sins. The Dragonslayer Series. Downers 
Grove: InterVarsity, 1987. Pp. 187. $6.95. Paper. 

WILSON, EARL. How to Stop Being Your Own Worst Enemy: Resolving 
Your Internal Conflicts. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1983. 
Pp. 191. $6.95. Paper. 

WOODBRIDGE, JOHN D. Great Leaders of the Christian Church. Chi- 
cago: Moody, 1988. Pp. 384. $22.95. Cloth. 

WORTHINGTON, EVERETT L. Counseling for Unplanned Pregnancy and 
Infertility. Resources for Christian Counseling, Vol. 10. Waco: Word, 
1987. Pp. 284. n.p. Cloth. 

Books Reviewed 


Johnson, Robert K., ed., The Use of the Bible in Theology: Evangelical 

Options (David S. Dockery) 287 


Braun, Roddy, / Chronicles (David G. Barker) 288 

Brownlee, W. H., Ezekiel 1-9, and Martens, Elmer A., Jeremiah (Richard 

Patterson) 289 

Mare, W. Harold, The Archaeology of the Jerusalem Area (Robert Ibach, Jr.) 291 


Martin, Ralph P., 2 Corinthians (David C. Baker) 292 

Matera, Frank J., What are They Saying about Mark? (Daniel B. Wallace) 294 


Storms, C. Samuel, Tragedy in Eden: Original Sin in the Theology of Jonathan 

Edwards (David S. Dockery) 295 


Marsden, George M., Reforming Fundamentalism (Ronald T. Clutter) .... 296 
Stuart, Carla H., Latimer: Apostle to the English (James Edward McGoldrick) 298 


Logan, Samuel T., ed., The Preacher and Preaching: Reviving the Art in the 

Twentieth Century (R. Larry Overstreet) 298 




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